The Council's vision for the city is clear and ambitious and is shared with statutory and voluntary sector partners. It reflects national agendas and local needs and is supported by staff. The council has a clear view of its priorities for improvement and has made progress in improving the way it works and addressing the weaknesses identified in its first corporate assessment, carried out in 2002. It has shown good community leadership in a number of locally-based initiatives around regeneration and enhancing the safety of neighbourhoods but needs to improve its performance in children's services.
The corporate assessment of Bristol found a number of positive aspects of performance. These include:
.The council's strong approach to promoting race equality has resulted in reduced inter-cultural tension.
.City centre improvements, such as the reconstruction of the Broadmead shopping area and the harbour-side, are delivering the priority of building a thriving economy.
.The council and partner organisations are tackling most crime and disorder issues well, with anti-social behaviour reduced and residents feeling relatively safe.
.For older people, the new, Very Sheltered housing developments support the independence of a large number of older people and there have been successes in reducing delayed discharges.
.Health inequalities are being tackled well by increasing physical exercise, including notable success within the Asian community.
.The council's financial position is sound and the council is improving its corporate capacity to plan and manage services.
.It is working constructively with a variety of partners to improve the delivery of services.
The assessment identified the following as areas for improvement:
.The levels at which young people achieve in Bristol schools are inadequate.
.The council's performance on recycling is in the worst 25 per cent of councils but is now starting to improve.
.There is only limited success in the health priorities of reducing smoking and teenage pregnancies.
.Performance management is not embedded in every department and councillors and managers are not yet sufficiently robust with measuring and interpreting data and taking the necessary action.
.The council has not developed and instilled corporate and cross-departmental ownership of the integrated children's services agenda, and specifically the improvement of educational attainment.
.There is inadequate drive for high achievement in all services. The council needs to improve the way it learns from benchmarking against best-in-class performers and from customer feedback and complaints.
.The council has not achieved value for money consistently, or routinely made the link between the cost of the service, its performance and public satisfaction.
Brian Bethell, Audit Commission senior manager said: 'Bristol City Council has undergone considerable change in the last two years and is working hard to improve the way it works and delivers services. The council has developed better links with partners and other providers that are beginning to show positive outcomes for the local community. It is providing good community leadership in many areas - for example, in regeneration and in improving community safety.
'But the picture of achievement is a mixed one against both local and national priorities. It needs to build on the progress made to ensure that improvements in local services are consistent, delivered more quickly and meet the needs of its diverse communities.'
The corporate assessment is one of the elements, together with reports from other regulators, which contribute to Bristol City Council's comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) rating.
Commenting on the report, council leader Barbara Janke said: 'I welcome the Audit Commission report which is very positive about the direction the council is travelling in. The report provides a helpful foundation on which we can build to maintain and accelerate the improvements we are making to the way the council leads the city and delivers services. The areas for improvement highlighted by the Commission are all ones that the council had already identified and this report underlines and supports much of the work we are already doing.
'Neither the Audit Commission report nor the accompanying report by OfSTED and the Commission for Social Care Inspection into Children's Services, following their Joint Area Review, tell us anything new about the massive challenge we already know that we face in the field of education. We are confident that the creation of our new Children's and Young People's Department, the priority we are giving to education across the council, the construction of several new schools and the strengthened support we are providing with our partners to headteachers, will start to bear fruit in the coming months and years. The size of the task is not to be underestimated but we are encouraged by the inspectors' judgement in their report that there are already many successful education services and others where the city's commitment is being rewarded by flourishing 'green shoots'.'