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Customer access to the services provided by Mendip DC is 'fair' and has 'uncertain prospects for improvement', acco...
Customer access to the services provided by Mendip DC is 'fair' and has 'uncertain prospects for improvement', according to an independent report by the Audit Commission.

On a scale of zero to three stars, the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star. This was because the council does not have a strategic approach or long-term vision for improving customer access. Consultation and communication with users and non-users of council services is not well co-ordinated. However, overall customer satisfaction with the council is high and the website is good.

Robert Hathaway, Audit Commission senior manager, said: 'The council is now starting to focus on improving access to services and is developing plans to improve. However, a strategic approach to delivering good access for the whole community is not in place. The council cannot therefore be sure it is meeting the needs of the whole community - and this includes the needs of the disabled in accessing council buildings.'

The inspectors also found that:

.there is no corporate concessionary pricing policy to help increase access for vulnerable and deprived groups within the community;

.there is a lack of consistency in addressing diversity issues; and

.customers can contact the council using a range of different access points including a contact centre, local customer information points and via the web site.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations. These include:

.develop a clear vision for future customer access;

.review current service provision regarding customer access and improve its effectiveness;

.develop the council's ability to monitor progress in making customer access improvements.

All councils have a duty to provide services to customers, stakeholders, partners and clients - and these services should be easy to access and supported by technology where this is appropriate to meeting customer's needs. In assuring good access to services, councils should be using customer feedback and complaints to improve service quality and customer access. Councils should also be using partnership working with other councils, organisations and businesses to continually improve customer access.

Mendip DC's overall revenue budget for 2005/06 is£15.037m with a capital programme of£3.1m. The net budget for customer access cuts across the total council budget and, while there are no specific costs, the provision of customer access costs in this service area constitutes a large proportion of the overall budget.

Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website.

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