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Three reports covering parts of Great Yarmouth BC's housing services describe them as fair and conclude that they w...
Three reports covering parts of Great Yarmouth BC's housing services describe them as fair and conclude that they will probably improve.

Great Yarmouth has pockets of severe deprivation with two wards in the top 50 most deprived in England and Wales.

The services inspected cover housing needs which include housing aid and homelessness, lettings, welfare rights and debt advice; renewal services which aim to meet the needs of low income and vulnerable households in privately owned homes; and estate management, caretaking and rents involving the management of 6,939 homes, 480 garages and 139 leaseholders in the borough.

The housing inspections were carried out under the government's best value scheme, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

The best value housing inspection team gave each of the services one star* and highlighted a number of strengths, including:

* good levels of customer satisfaction with staff and with parts of the services

* services targeted to those in need

* commitment to improving services for customers

* effective joint working with statutory agencies and partners at both an operational and strategic level

* the development of a rough sleepers strategy

* 99.7 per cent of rent due was collected in 1999/00, putting great Yarmouth in the top 25 per cent of all district councils

The reports point out a number of areas where the services require further attention, these include:

* the information given to customers for all the services is not always clear and is presented in a way that makes it difficult for customers to understand how it relates to the standards and quality of the services they should expect to receive

* the reception and interview services for homeless people are poor and the time taken to process applications is below the average for other district councils

* home owners are not given enough information about help to improve and maintain their homes and there are some weaknesses in the way grants are administered and delivered

To help the council overcome its weaknesses and improve in the future, the best value team made a number of recommendations, including:

* improve information given to customers about the services they receive and make sure that they understand the standards they should expect

* improve performance in processing applications for homeless people and the delivery of grants to private sector home owners and the caretaking service to council tenants

* continue to explore ways of making sure that voluntary and statutory agencies are able to contribute to the delivery of the services through partnership working

Roy Irwin, chief inspector of housing, said:

'The housing department services provided by Great Yarmouth BC are currently fair and we found high levels of support, enthusiasm and ambition for the services amongst councillors, senior officers and staff.

'The council should communicate further with service users to ensure performance meets customer expectations. Also by re-evaluating the way grant applications are currently processed and by cutting down on the excessive bureaucracy, the council will probably find itself well-placed to improve in the future.'

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