The Audit Commission in Wales Inspection Team gave the service two stars (out of a possible three) because they found that there have been few missed refuse collections over the past year and streets are generally acceptably clean. But the independent report also says that there's some room for improvement, particularly in improving low staff morale and paying urgent attention to the council's ageing fleet of vehicles.
'Refuse collection, street cleaning and road repairs might sound mundane to some but these services can make a real impact on people's quality of life. Although Ceredigion CC provides all of these services to a good standard at present, its prospects for future improvement are uncertain.
The council now needs to implement the recommendations of our inspection report. In particular, the authority should take action to tackle low staff morale, budgetary pressures and an ageing fleet of vehicles.'
The inspection report highlights a number of positive features of the service:
- There have been very few missed refuse collections over the past year
- Streets are generally at a high or acceptable level of cleanliness
- Road surfaces are generally good with a rapid response to repairing dangerous damage to roads
- Customers believe they receive a quality, competitive service with regard to transport maintenance
But inspectors also found some weaknesses in the service:
- There is poor communication and low staff morale
- The cost effectiveness of highways maintenance is not clear
- There is ageing fleet which has led to increased maintenance costs
- Sickness absence needs to be effectively managed
The report concludes that the service has uncertain prospects for improvement because:
- The highway budget is still under pressure
- The refuse collection service is projecting a loss for 2001/02
- Plans to deal with the council's ageing fleet could take a long time
- There was no operational review of the services leading to a plan to improve operational outcomes
Recommendations to help improve the service include:
- Putting the new highway schedule of rates out to tender
- Undertaking an operational review of the engineering contracting group
- Introducing a replacement policy for vehicles
- Developing more robust policies for addressing sickness absence
Ceredigion CC's engineering facilities management service includes the previous direct labour and direct service organisations, and is responsible for highway maintenance, refuse collection, street cleaning and vehiclemaintenance.