Agenda item

Joint Archives Services: Annual Report 2017/18

Joint report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities (Staffordshire County Council) and Director of Resources – Assistant Chief Executive (Stoke-on-Trent City Council)


The Committee considered a joint report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Families and Communities (Staffordshire County Council) and Director of Resources – Assistant Chief Executive (Stoke-on-Trent City Council) giving details of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service: Annual Report 2017/18 (schedule 1 to the signed minutes) which had been produced in accordance with the Joint Agreement.


The Annual report provided an account and review of the work and performance of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service for the financial year 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.


This was the third year in the current three-year planning cycle for the service. The report highlighted some significant achievements towards meeting the overall strategic objectives of the service within the current Forward Plan 2015-2018 including:- (i) developing an active partnership approach; (ii) developing resilience and sustainability; (iii) reaching and engaging with a wide range of people and building new audiences; (iv) sharing knowledge across the UK and (v) increasing online presence and remote access.


Members noted that it had been a very productive year with the most noticeable successes including (i) the development of the Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) Staffordshire History Centre; (ii) the achievement of Archive Accreditation in July 2017; (iii) the continued work on funded cataloguing projects and; (iv) the smooth transfer of collections from the former Lichfield Record Office. However, some dips in performance had occurred owing to the need to prioritise a heavy workload.


With regard to (i) above, fourteen events and activities had been held across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to consult with people about the project, feedback from which had been used to influence the Activity Plan/work undertaken by Project Partners. In addition a Conservation Management Plan had been prepared to Royal Institute of British Architects Stage 3 standard, setting out how collections were to be managed, interpreted, explained and conserved in the new Centre. Whilst the project had not been without its difficulties the HLF had confirmed that it had passed their mid-stage review and an application for further funding was submitted by the Authorities in June 2018.


With regard to (ii) above, presentation of the award took place in November 2017 by Val Johnson of the National Archive. At the ceremony,  she informed delegates that only 3.5% of eligible services had so far been successful in gaining accreditation.


With regard to (iii) above, good progress had been made in (i) reducing the backlog of collections awaiting cataloguing and; (ii) processing new collections, owing to the success of the service in obtaining grant aid from external sources. Grants had been received from the National Archive for the Royal Doulton element of the Minton Archive and Welcome Foundation for the Public Health Records project. 


An audit of the Heritage and Archive Service was completed by Staffordshire County Council’s Internal Audit Service in May 2017. The Audit examined financial management arrangements, processes and risk management. As a result a recommendation for the production of a risk register covering (i) physical risks to collections; (ii) risks to digital collection; (iii) risks to staff, members of the public and volunteers within the service; (iv) risks to operation of the public service and; (v) risks to forward planning for the service for review by the Joint Committee on an annual basis was made. Accordingly, a Register had been produced and was appended to the report for Members’ information. The highest risk highlighted was the digital preservation of collections with a score of 20 out of 25.   


During the discussion which ensued Members paid tribute to the work of the service for their significant achievements over the year notwithstanding their heavy workload. They were particular pleased to learn of (i) the 99% customer satisfaction rating gained in a recent local survey; (ii) the attainment of Archive Service Accreditation; (iii) the success of the Volunteer scheme and; (iv) progress in the development of the Staffordshire History Centre project.


The Member representative from Stoke-on-Trent City Council expressed her view that the service should seek to promote their achievements not least as an example of effective partnership working between Authorities. She went onto to enquire about the “Kitchen Goes to War” project and “Weeping Window” at Middleport Pottery as part of the commemoration of the Great War. In reply the Commissioner for Culture and Communities explained that Kitchen Goes to War had been devised by the County Council with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for use in Staffordshire Schools. The project focused on rationing and its impact on domestic life and she undertook to liaise with relevant officers regarding inclusion of schools in the City Council’s area in the initiative. With regard to the Weeping Window, the Director referred to the “Great War Staffordshire” Website at which sought to capture and publicise details of all local events being held to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. She undertook to ensure that Weeping Window had been included.


RESOLVED – (a) That the report be received and the achievements of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Joint Archive Service be noted.


(b) That the draft Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service Annual Report 2017 -2018 as set out in Appendix 2 to the report be approved for publication.


(b) That the Risk Register for Joint Archive Service as set out in Appendix 3 to the report be approved.







Supporting documents: