Independent inspectors from the Audit Commission Inspection Service gave the service two stars because the council has made considerable progress in creating a favourable environment and framework for job creation in the county.
'I'd like to congratulate the business development unit at Caerphilly Council for their success in creating new jobs and helping reduce unemployment in the area. Our inspectors found that local businesses were very positive about the speed with which grant applications are processed and we'd like to commend staff for their hard work.
'So that the service can achieve continuous improvement, we've made a number of recommendations. In particular we'd like to see the council develop a more strategic approach to the way it distributes grants'.
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
- This service is well regarded by both partners and customers
- The council has made considerable progress in creating an environment that favours job creation - over 3,000 new jobs have been announced since 1996 and unemployment has reduced substantially
- The council has also made progress in building effective partnerships to provide business support
- Local businesses were positive about the speed with which the service processes grant applications and praised staff
However, inspectors also identified some weaknesses that need to be addressed:
- There is a low take up of community enterprise grants
- There is some dissatisfaction with security in the council's industrial unites
- There is some doubt that the aims of the service are realistic or challenging
Inspectors felt that the service has uncertain prospects for improvement because:
- Comparison of the service with other authorities is limited
- There is no test of competitiveness of some aspects of the service
- There is limited evidence of the result of consultations being used to help improve the service
- The council did not investigate some key issues in the best value review
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
- Improve the customer focus of the service
- Make the best use of property resources to help local job creation
- The council should develop a more strategic approach to grant distribution
- Targeting support so that local people are in a position to win the jobs that are created
Business Development in Caerphilly CBC is part of the economic development division within the chief executive's directorate. The cost of the business development team is about£600,000 for 2001/02 and the council estimates an income from its property portfolio of around£650,000. The business development unit has a staff of 18.