A review of the city council found that there has been:
- Considerable progress made on most recommendations
- The earlier review report had been tackled head on and used as a catalyst for change
The review team found that a strong and effective management team had now been appointed under new chief executive David Henshaw. Management structures had been slimmed down, decision making had been streamlined, bureaucracy cut and real progress made in breaking down departmental 'silos'.
There was now a high level of trust between the city council executive board and executive management team.
The seven strong I&DeA team, which has met hundreds of staff, councillors and members of the public during the last three days, singled out Liverpool Direct and the city council's one stop shop initiatives for praise, together with substantial improvements in the education service (see Notes for details).
Communications had significantly improved, the majority of performance indicators were improving and the city council had delivered its financial objective of freezing council tax for three years running.
The I&DeA first visited Liverpool in March 1999. This is the first review that the I&DeA has ever carried out.
The I&DeA team was led by the chief executive of Sheffield City Council Bob Kerslake. He said: 'Liverpool City Council has made significant progress on implementing the recommendations we made in our first review just over two years ago. The city council now has a solid platform on which to achieve further substantial improvements in the way it provides services to the people of Liverpool.
'However we have also highlighted further areas for improvement, including improving basic services, particularly in social services, manual services and housing maintenance. There also needs to be sufficient support to front line staff to enable them to do their jobs more effectively.'
Mr Kerslake added: 'This is a wholly different organisation from the one we saw two years ago. There have been changes for the better in terms of the city council's organisation, people, and, most importantly of all, in its culture. The city council can now move forward to the next stage of improvement. Everyone now understands that the city council is committed to delivering first class services for the people of Liverpool.'
City council leader Mike Storey said: 'Everyone at the city council has worked extremely hard over the last two years to transform this organisation, and I am very pleased that the changes we have made have been recognised so positively by the IDeA.
'However we know that there is still a lot of hard work to be done if Liverpool is to become a premier European city. This review will help us focus on the further changes that we need to make.'
Chief executive David Henshaw added: 'I would like to congratulate all our staff for the efforts they have made over the last two years. The message is: 'So far, so good.' We are on course and heading in the right direction.'
Hi-Tec Praise for Customer-Friendly Council
An independent report by a top local government review body has praised Liverpool City Council for the progress made in using new technologies to make the council more customer-friendly in the last two years.
The Improvement and Development Agency (I&DeA) pointed to the success of the city's One Stop Shops. The council drop-in contact centres have received over 12,000 visitors in the first 12 weeks. The three One Stop Shops in Kirkdale, Dingle and the city centre deal with a whole range of council services under one roof and more than 95% of customer enquiries are resolved straight away. With plans for a network of One Stop Shops to be open across the city, the I&DeA said that they 'show definite promise'. The report also highlighted 'good targeted training' for One-Stop Shop advisors.
Also singled out for praise was the council's call centre Liverpool Direct, the largest of its type in the country. The award-winning contact centre answers over 1.5million calls a year and has been recognised as a site of good practice by the cabinet office.
A seven-strong team of high ranking officials drawn from other UK local authorities met hundreds of staff, councillors and members of the public during its investigation. The review concludes that there has been a huge improvement since the last visit two years ago.
Mr Kerslake said: 'Liverpool City Council has made significant progress on implementing the recommendations we made in our first review just over two years ago. The city council now has a solid platform on which to achieve further substantial improvements in the way it provides services to the people of Liverpool.
Cllr Chris Newby, executive member for best value, today welcomed the findings: 'Re-organisation of the council has focused on the needs of the customer and I am glad that has been recognised by the Improvement and Development Agency. Every-one at the city council has worked hard over the last two years to transform the organisation but there is still a lot more to do if the council is to become a premier European city. We are committed to using the best communication technologies to cut back on red tape and ensure the best service possible for the people of Liverpool.'
The council has also submitted a report to the government which says that Liverpool is well on target to becoming the country's first genuine electronic council. The 'Implementing Electronic Government' strategy sets out achievements made by the council in making all services available on-line by 2005. The successful One-Stop Shops and Liverpool Direct are central to the bid but the report also highlights the important contributions that partnerships signed with leading hi-tec companies BT and Oracle will make.
A pioneering£300m Joint Venture Company with BT was set up earlier this year which will see a£57m investment to modernise Information Technology systems in the next two years and the council recently signed a£6m deal with Oracle to use the latest computer software.