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London councils are improving services overall but are yet to catch up with some of the metropolitan boroughs. ...
London councils are improving services overall but are yet to catch up with some of the metropolitan boroughs.

The first separate Audit Commission report on the performance of London councils finds a huge variation in the quality of service. In a number of indicators the capital has the best and worst councils in the country.

The average of council tax collected in London has risen from 88% in 1994-95 to 92% in 1997-98. The average time taken to relet a property has fallen by 0.7% over the same four-year period from 8.9 weeks to 8.2 weeks.

Among the few indicators to show a deterioration are those concerning homeless families. The number of weeks they stay in bed and breakfast or hostel accommodation has risen from 13 to 16 weeks.

Audit Commission director of audit support Paul Vevers said: 'That is almost certainly because of the increase in asylum seekers. One of the limitations of these figures is that they tell you what is happening but not why. Collection of council tax is within their control. Influx of asylum seekers is not.'

Spending per person in most councils has gone up slightly but a few have decreased spending significantly because of cuts in government grants. The result is an average fall of 2% since 1994-95.

Average performance in London is often poorer than in other metropolitan areas. The percentage of council tenants in rent arrears of more than three months is 10% in London and 4.8% and 4.3% in Greater Manchester and West Midlands councils respectively.

The average performance of West Midlands councils is better than that for London councils on eight indicators, worse on three and the same on two. Greater Manchester is better on eight and worse on five.

'Understandably expenditure is higher but it does raise questions about why performance should be worse,' Mr Vevers said.

Local authority performance indicators 1997-98: council services in London, price:£20, tel: 0800 502030

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