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BEST VALUE - SERVICES GAIN GOOD GRADES IN FIRST ROUND OF INSECTION REPORTS

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Council services have earned high grades in the first round of best value inspection reports, the Audit Commission ...
Council services have earned high grades in the first round of best value inspection reports, the Audit Commission has said.

None of the seven services inspected receives a poor 'no-star' rating, while Bolton MBC's legal department wins an excellent three stars. Five councils receive two stars and one, Sutton LBC, gains a single star for its housing service.

Director of inspection Wendy Thomson said: 'This first round of reports paints an encouraging picture for local government and its drive towards improvement and delivering excellent services.'

The reports are the first to emerge from the Best Value Inspection Service's initial round of inspections, which covers councils.

The star ratings describe the performance of services and the reports comment on the potential for service improvement.

The inspection service says that although Bolton MBC's legal department was excellent, it was unlikely to improve. Northern region inspection director Darra Singh says the service needed to take a clearer approach towards planning and assess how far it succeeds in delivering value for money.

But Bolton leader Bob Howarth welcomes the report: 'This is an independent assessment of the service and praises the way we do things, our efficiency and our businesslike approach.'

Sutton LBC's housing service is criticised for not being as strong in key areas as some other boroughs - though the inspectors think it will improve. They recommend a five-year action plan for improvement and a clear approach to change management to ensure a smooth transition between the current service provider and any other arrangements introduced.

Chief housing inspector Roy Irwin said: 'The council needs to be more ambitious and challenging, setting performance standards to ensure customers receive a consistent, quality service.'

Sutton leader Mike Cooper said: 'We support the overall recommendations in the report, which are in line with how the council wishes to improve its services. We see the inspection as a learning exercise, as we believe the Audit Commission does.'

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Best Value inspection findings:

Newham LBC

Newham's passenger transport service is good and likely to improve. The inspectors say the council needs to produce an updated action plan, implement shorter, quicker routes and monitor passenger journeys more regularly. **

Dacorum BC

Dacorum's housing, cleaning and caretaking section delivers a good service to local people and is likely to improve. The inspectors recommend the council looks at how the services can be integrated with wider council initiatives and that Dacorum should work to achieve more consistent standards. **

Dudley MBC

Dudley's waste management department provides a good service but is unlikely to improve unless key recommendations are followed. The inspectors suggest the council should develop a waste management strategy and decide on a refuse collection method that ties in with local waste strategy and recycling targets. **

Pembrokeshire CC

Pembrokeshire's tourist information service is good but unlikely to improve. The council needs to develop clear targets and policies for long-term improvement and improve consultation with visitors. **

Sefton MBC

Sefton's building control services are good but unlikely to improve. The inspectors recommend improved consultation and an action plan that clarifies priorities.

The service should become better directed towards meeting the council's overall aims. **

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