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Newark and Sherwood DC overall is 'fair', according to a major report out today from the Audit Commission. It has a...
Newark and Sherwood DC overall is 'fair', according to a major report out today from the Audit Commission. It has a record of delivering improvements for local people, and it is putting in place the capacity for further improvements.

Newark and Sherwood was among a number of authorities inspected in Nottinghamshire as part of the comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) of district councils which rates each as either excellent, good, fair, weak or poor.

CPA is the first time that people have had a single overall assessment on their council. Reporting for the 238 district councils in England follows the 2002 CPA carried out for the 150 larger all purpose and county councils.

The assessment of Newark and Sherwood DC found that the council is doing well in some areas:

- Its achievements include major regeneration projects and significant improvements in the fuel efficiency of council homes.

- It has a number of strong services, including housing, which perform well and have satisfied users.

- It works well with partners, such as the police and local health services, and has strong finances.

But the assessment also found room for improvement:

- The council needs to make clear its key priorities and develop further the way it plans to achieve them.

- The council's arrangements to get the views of local people about services could be improved.

- The council needs do more to spread good practice across all its services.

Following today's report Newark and Sherwood DC will plan what it needs to do to improve, with support from the Audit Commission.

Audit Commission senior manager Mike White said: 'Newark and Sherwood DC has worked hard to make improvements to the quality of life of people in the district. But it needs to make its priorities clearer and improve the way it consults with local people about these. Residents of Newark and Sherwood will want to know what happens next. Where the council has weaknesses it sh ould use this assessment to help it deliver improvement. We would expect the council to make its improvement plans public. We will want to track progress. The end result should be better services for the people of Newark and Sherwood.'

Audit Commission chairman James Strachan said: 'Comprehensive performance assessment is strategic regulation. It reduces red tape and is aimed at helping improve public services. Not only is this the first comprehensive report to the public on how well councils are run - it also provides a powerful tool to make services better. The findings we have published today will form the basis for future improvement plans. The commission will help by focusing its attention where it is necessary and most productive. The council will get maximum support without unnecessary bureaucracy.'

A press release from the local authority follows:

During July 2003 a Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) review team from the Audit Commission undertook a week long inspection of Newark and Sherwood DC.

The inspection team considered how well the council delivered its services and priorities and also gave consideration to whether the council has the capacity to further improve.

Newark and Sherwood DC have been judged to be 'fair'. The other Nottinghamshire district councils have been graded as follows:

Ashfield - Fair

Broxtowe - Fair

Gedling - Good

Mansfield - Poor

Rushcliffe - Good

The council's full CPA report was published on 22 December and an improvement plan will now be prepared resulting in a range of initiatives to further develop council services. The report highlighted the council's strengths as:

- It has a number of strong services with good records in performance that are recognised by high and improving levels of customer satisfaction, such as housing, local taxes, benefits, planning, a Beacon award winning energy efficiency service and maintaining a high quality environment for people who live in, work in and visit the District.

- It has a track record of working with its partners to successfully deliver major regeneration projects including the award winning improvements to Newark riverside.

- It has increased its capacity through working in partnership with other organisations ??? particularly the developing Newark and Sherwood Partnership. It has also tackled some issues that cut across traditional services for example, community safety.

- Its finances are well managed.

- It invests in the development of its workforce and has successfully retained Investor In People status demonstrating its commitment to being a learning organisation.

The following areas for improvement have been identified:

- The council priorities and key objectives are not sufficiently clear, which hampers its ability to focus on important issues, such as enhancing the lives of young people and developing a systematic approach to consultation with local people and to the analysis of their needs.

- The role of councillors needs further development and, through additional training, help them in performance management and their role in community leadership.

- The council needs to better engage with parish councils and local communities.

- Further improvements are to be made to increase access to services across the district, especially in more rural areas and by working together with partners to develop public services.

Council leader Tony Roberts said: 'At Newark and Sherwood DC we are committed to providing the best quality services to those who live, work and visit the area. Our report graded the council just one point below the standard for 'Good'. We strive for continuous improvement and will now seek to ensure that our standards improve further whilst keeping our share of the council tax to a minimum'.

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