The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service a two star rating out of a possible three because the council has exceeded targets for house building and is on course to meet waste recycling and road accident reduction targets. It has also improved bus services, resulting in fewer car trips.
'The council has clear and ambitious aims for the service. It works hard to deliver these aims and expects to meet national and local targets in planning, refuse collection, street cleaning and transport. Councillors and staff are committed to improvements such as the private finance initiative for recycling, further development of the town centre and schemes to relieve traffic congestion.'
The inspectors found:
- The council has enabled a range of high quality town centre retail developments to be completed.
- The council has exceeded its targets for the total number of houses, and the number of affordable houses, to be built.
- The number of bus passengers has consistently risen and the number of car trips fallen, as a result of improvements made by the council to bus services.
- Plans for short and medium-term improvements to waste recyling and traffic management are well advanced.
- The council is successful at getting external funding for improvement.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
- The council should have a clear strategy for parking provision.
- Following the appointment of the new private finance initiative contractor, the council should develop waste collection arrangements to support waste minimisation and recycling.
- The council should develop a medium-term financial plan in the environment directorate to ensure funding for planned service improvements.
The services assessed in this inspection include recycling and waste minimisation, planning and integrated transport. These services are delivered by the environment directorate, which has a budget for 2004/05 of£15.678m.
Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk