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REGULARS - AN INSPECTOR CALLS

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Audit Commission ...
Audit Commission

Coventry City Council

Coventry City Council's libraries and information services are fair and have promising prospects for improvement, according to the Audit Commission, which awarded them one star out of a possible three.

Inspectors found the service had improved over recent years with greater funding, and most customers satisfied with the increased opening hours and facilities such as free internet access. There was praise too for the service's efforts to reach people, particularly multicultural communities.

However, the service could be improved by increasing the number of libraries and refurbishing existing ones, planning marketing to ensure value for money, and responding to customer feedback to provide a consistent service across Coventry.

The commission also recommended putting performance monitoring and more detailed service standards in place, so that customers would know what to expect.

Essex CC

The Audit Commission has found the planning service provided by Essex CC to be good, awarding it two out of a possible three stars.

The commission noted that helpful and experienced staff worked constructively with partners and other stakeholders to improve the quality of the built environment.

Inspectors also found users received constructive advice, and the service encouraged negotiation and information access. Regional and national agendas were being influenced to ensure future decisions take into account the needs of those living and working in Essex.

The service was forming good partnerships with other councils and agencies, and linking to corporate goals and wider national planning objectives.

The commission said: 'Major development issues are facing Essex, and the service is responding positively.'

Charnwood BC

Charnwood BC's development control service is fair, with promising prospects for improvement according to an Audit Commission report.

The commission gave the service one out of a possible three stars. Inspectors note d that the service is having a positive effect on development across the borough - although not all applicants receive efficient service.

Charnwood received praise for its good use of specialist advice to improve the quality of development, and its fair and transparent decision making process for applicants and objectors.

However, the report says the enforcement process is stretched, providing only a very basic service, while limited progress has been made in generating interest in the wider community over key planning matters.

The inspectors recommend setting out key priorities for enforcement, strengthening engagement with the wider community, and developing IT functionality to provide online planning and improved customer service.

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