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REGULARS - AN INSPECTOR CALLS

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Audit Commission ...
Audit Commission

Oxfordshire CC

Good quality cultural services are helping to tackle social exclusion in Oxfordshire, according to a report released by the Audit Commission.

The report rated Oxfordshire CC's cultural services as good with promising prospects for improvement. The use of new technology and a flexible approach to opening hours in response to local needs is improving access to services, it added.

Inspectors found the council's approach to improving cultural provision was appropriate to local needs, though they said more clarity was needed about what the council is seeking to achieve and how this will impact on the quality of life for people in the county.

To facilitate further improvement the report recommended further development of the way the council uses technology, encouragement of take-up by all sectors of the community, and increased partnership working.

Reading BC

The cultural services provided by Reading BC are fair, but service performance is mixed and customer satisfaction variable, according to a report released by the Audit Commission.

Although inspectors found a wide range of facilities and programmes that meet the needs of most of the population they said a number of the borough's cultural facilities are in poor condition because of the lack of investment. However, the report also said there were promising prospects for improvement.

The report praised the borough's targeted programmes for Reading's diverse community, and strong partnership working that had attracted significant external funding.

To improve the service inspectors recommended the borough produce project plans that have clear targets and time scales, develop marketing and communication techniques, and strengthen performance management by integrating service planning with budget setting.

Social Services Inspectorate

York City Council

York City Council's children's services have been given a clean bill of health by the government.

The Social Services Inspector ate has ranked York's children's services in the top 10% nationwide, following an inspection this summer.

A separate audit of child protection in the city found the council needed only minor changes to meet national standards.

'Too often social services come in for criticism for not getting it right in this difficult and demanding area of work,' said Jim

Crook, City of York's director of community services.

'It is reassuring to know most of the time we are getting it right, and, with the help of the inspection, we have identified how further improvements to the service can be made.'

The inspectors focused on the quality of services received by children and their carers, and on the effectiveness of management.

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