The inspectors assessed the council after the completion of its complex and strategic review of its services under the government's new best value regime, which places a duty on local authorities to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible to the public. (See bottom of text for report summary and LGCnet SUTTON COMMENTS ON AUDIT COMMISSION REPORT
They found that the housing service has strengths, in particular:
The successful delivery of a large and complex estate renewal project on the Roundshaw Estate, which will see decaying homes replaced by high quality new houses for local people.
The commitment to involving and consulting customers in decision making
The inspection team judged that overall Sutton provided their tenants and
leaseholders with a fair service.
This is because:
Performance in key areas is not as strong as some other London boroughs.
The council has not been able to deliver the service improvements it wants within the existing housing management contract.
The council needs to build on its experience of consulting with customers to develop more consistent and representative participation practices.
The Inspection Team think that services will improve because:
The council has a clear commitment to best value, with dedicated professional staff who want Sutton to be a leading edge authority.
Performance in key areas has been improving, as a result of the council putting in place special initiatives to drive up standards for customers.
The council can use the opportunity of reviewing how it provides housing management services to set more appropriate performance standards for customers. The report recommendations include the need to:
Agree a new five year housing best value action that will ensure that Sutton delivers high quality housing services alongside the best in London. Agree a clear approach to change management to ensure a seamless transition between the current service provider and any new arrangements put in place.
Ensure proper performance management is in place to maximise service quality from the existing provider or any other organisation in the future. Chief inspector of housing, Roy Irwin, said:
'Elected members and staff want Sutton to be a leading edge authority and have welcomed the principles of best value.
'The council needs to be more ambitious and challenging, setting performance standards that will mean customers receive a consistent, quality service.
'We look forward to seeing how much progress the council has made in improving services for its tenants and leaseholders when we return to Sutton in the autumn 2001.'
The inspection of housing services at Sutton authority took place between 24 July and 4 August 2000. It involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.
The best value inspection service is part of the Audit Commission. It was established by the 1999 Local Government Act to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council.
Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.
The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Services must be delivered to clear standards of cost and quality - by the most economic, efficient and effective means available.
Councils must annually report on their performance (best value performance plans) and review all of their services over the next five years in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.
The Audit Commission for local authorities and the NHS is an independent body established under the Audit Commission Act 1998. Further details the report can be obtained here
This is an early Best Value review, undertaken prior to the introduction of statutory guidance, that came into force on 1st April 2000