The council's refuse collection, street cleaning and grounds maintenance services are fair but have poor prospects for improvement, according to a report out today from the Audit Commission.
Audit Commission relationship manager Brian Stevenson said:
'Street cleaning, refuse collection and parks all have a major contribution to make to quality of life for local residents. At the moment Congleton BC is doing really well in some areas, such as reliable waste collection and clean streets. But the council needs to do better on other aspects, such a tackling the problem of dog fouling in parks and enforcing the regulations on litter and fly tipping. At the moment these services cost a lot of money - the council needs to find ways to improve without putting local people out of pocket.'
The inspectors found:
* the streets themselves are generally free of litter and dog fouling
* there is a good range of parks, open spaces and play areas
* the council provides attractive floral arrangements on roundabouts, town centres and parks
* no service standards are published so customers don't know what level of service to expect from the council
* there is a lack of effective action on enforcement and education for fly tipping, littering and dog fouling in parks
* Congleton does not have a local plan in place to cut waste levels, even though this is required by law
* the services do not offer good value for money - for example, the cost of maintaining refuse wago ns is high, and there are high levels of sick leave among refuse collection staff
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including that the council should:
* work out what it needs to do over the next five years to bring its performance up to the standard of the best councils
* set up a robust system to deter littering, dog fouling and fly-tipping and take steps to educate and inform the public about these issues
* set out how it will reduce waste and increase the amount of recycling
The Audit Commission inspection report covers:
* refuse collection and recycling
* street cleaning, including removal of fly-tipping and dog fouling
* grounds maintenance including four town parks, 50 children's play areas and 23 outdoor grass pitches
* booking and maintaining outdoor sports facilities
The budget for these services for 2002/03 is £3.75m (this includes public toilets and minor engineering works not covered in this report).