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MANCHESTER'S ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY GETS ONE STAR - PLUS COUNCIL'S RESPONSE

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The environmental sustainability service provided by Manchester City Council is fair and has promising prospects fo...
The environmental sustainability service provided by Manchester City Council is fair and has promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

Commission inspectors gave the service one star because customers are generally satisfied with the service; the city looks clean and tidy; and there is a reasonable balance between education and enforcement.

Jo Webb, commissioning inspector said: 'We are impressed by the council's achievements to date. A senior councillor is driving the improvement plan and local people feel their concerns are being taken on board and tackled. The council knows it must now address difficult issues such as how to maintain high standards while ensuring the service remains cost effective. It also needs to develop tougher targets so it can match the performance of the top 25 per cent councils within five years.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- There are good systems in place to consult with customers and communities, and it is generally easy to contact the council. Customers have already noticed a big improvement in the service and say the council listens to problems and is responsive.

- The council is using innovative methods to tackle fly-posting which combines prevention, education, enforcement, and clean-up.

- The council is working well with communities to identify litter hot-spots and develop innovative solutions to tackle fly-tipping and other problems.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- The performance of the service as a whole is below average and there are pockets where performance is poor, for example, the length of time taken to remove fly-tipping.

- The cost of keeping land clean appears to be significantly higher than similar councils.

- There are no clear targets in place to meet key government goals, particularly for recycling.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

- Further improve telephone contact for customers by simplifying access to the council's different call centres and ensuring callers are transferred to the right place.

- Set challenging targets for recycling and air quality that match government targets, and ensure progress is measured and monitored.

- Review the way the commercial refuse service is delivered to ensure it meets the needs of customers; is cost effective; and does not have to rely on cross-subsidy from other services.

The council's environmental sustainability work aims to enhance and protect the environment and prevent pollution. It covers 14 services including air quality; fly-tipping and fly-poster removal; abandoned vehicles; pollution regulation; commercial refuse; street washing and chewing gum removal; and environmental policy and stewardship. The service is estimated to cost£6,643,982 for 2000/2001.

A press release from the local authority follows:

Manchester City Council's capacity for environmental sustainability has

been praised by Audit Commission inspectors.

Following an in-depth health check by the commission's inspectors, the

council's environmental sustainability service was awarded a star for its

fair quality and its promising prospects for improvement.

Jo Webb, audit commissioning inspector, said: 'We are impressed by the

council's achievements to date. A senior councillor (Martin

Pagel) is driving the improvement plan and local people feel their concerns

are being taken on board and tackled.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths such as the

council's record for consultation with its communities. It also recognises

that council tax payers have noticed a big improvement in the services and

have said that the council listens to problems and is responsive.

It points out initiatives developed by the council in tackling fly-posting

through a combination of education, enforcement and clean-up projects, as

well as in tackling litter hot spots and fly-tipping.

Evidence of their findings is further supported by the council's recent

hosting of a very successful network meeting which will see the formation

of a public/private/community consortium to reclaim, reuse and recycle

materials ranging from computers to clothes and furniture.

In addition, the council's budget proposals, due to be unveiled next week,

include a£250,000 Greening Manchester initiative fund.

However, the Audit Commission also identifies areas which could be

improved, including the speed with which the Council responds to

fly-tipping. This issue is now being urgently addressed by the Council.

Ms Webb noted: 'The council knows it must now address difficult issues such

as how to maintain high standards while ensuring the service remains cost

effective.'

Martin Pagel, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: 'We warmly welcome the Audit Commission's report, as it confirms the progress that we have made in

recent years and that they believe that our services will further improve.

Their views are consistent with the views of the Tidy Britain Group, who

recently praised the council for the progress we have made.'

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