Local government improvement programme reviewers report: 'Stockton knows where it is going and how to get there. In the four years since it gained unitary status, a confident new corporate identity has been developed. It has gained respect and is seen as a strong regional player.
'Stockton is now a council partners trust and enjoy working with because of its responsiveness, clear focus and ability to deliver.'
The report praises inspiring leadership, good strategic and medium-term planning and sound internal budget processes. Staff feel they play a part in the council's success, and cultural change is taking effect thanks to communication networks and well-supported management.
The report says the council 'needs to broaden its outlook beyond those neighbourhoods that have been the main focus for regeneration, and policy commitments in some key areas now need to be translated into rigorous and effective practice'.
Stockton should raise awareness about equalities and improve communications and community consultation.
Chief executive George Garlick said: 'A lot of hard work has been undertaken since we won unitary status and the IDeA team recognised this has paid real dividends.'
Leader Bob Gibson said: 'Stockton has come through the review process as one of the top councils in the country.'