Essex County Council
PO Box 11,
Chelmsford Essex CM1 1LX
Mr A. Corder Birch
President, Essex Society for Archaeology and History
1 December 2016
RE: ESSEX RECORD OFFICE
Thank you for your letter regarding the financial challenges facing Essex Record Office (ERO). Let me say at the outset how much I value the interest of the ESAH on this issue and indeed the contribution you make across the County.
At Essex County Council we remain determined to provide the best value for money to our tax payers. This means the provision of outstanding services within ever tighter cost constraints. I am sure you appreciate that the public sector is having to operate in an increasingly challenging financial climate and is having to make difficult choices as to how limited funding is used. Non tax revenue is increasingly important in balancing the equation and it does seem right that customers should pay for services where they can afford to do so.
Accordingly, we are looking at many aspects of our operations to assess what revenue may reasonably be earned. ERO provide a wide range of services which are valued by those who consume them. It is entirely reasonable that we should set the goal of attracting revenues which fully cover the marginal cost of those services. But let us be clear — this will only be sustainable if we are providing services which are attractive to as many people as possible and which meet their needs. Achievement of a break even position purely through diminution of service will be at odds to our value for money criteria.
You ask a series of detailed questions about income and costs. Our officers are currently developing the business plans which will enable the achievement of our aims over the coming years. The current trading deficit, even ignoring the cost of the building is approaching £0.5m. Please be assured that we will not ask our staff to perform the impossible; the eventual business plan will need to be realistic and they will be supported in their efforts.
I wish you well for your council meeting in January. While we would not wish to publish detailed business plans, once they are developed (which will be towards the end of this financial year) I know that the Portfolio Holder for Heritage Culture & Arts, Cllr John Spence and/or our senior officers will be happy to meet with you and talk matters through.
Councillor David Finch
Leader of the Council