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ST HELENS SCORES TWO STARS FOR WASTE MANAGEMENT

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The waste management and sustainability service provided by St Helens MBC is good and has promising prospects for i...
The waste management and sustainability service provided by St Helens MBC is good and has promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service two stars* because the refuse collection service is good and achieves high satisfaction levels from the community; the streets and town centre are generally clean; and service aims are customer-focused.

Jo Webb, commissioning inspector, northern region, said: 'The council has identified key issues for improvement and shows a commitment to learn from others to improve its performance in areas such as recycling and composting. It has also developed a good performance monitoring system and has a track record of improvement in many areas, particularly for recycling and fly-tipping removal.

'However, the council now needs to identify clear priorities for action and ensure its performance-monitoring system is applied rigorously across the service.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

'It is easy for local people to contact the council and customers find the new call centre staff helpful and knowledgeable. Staff and managers take pride in delivering a good service and staff morale is high.

'The council carries out significant education and awareness-raising activities and encourages active citizenship. However, inspectors also found weaknesses: The council is still some way from achieving its goal of incorporating sustainable activity into day-to-day community life.

Recycling levels have doubled in the past year to more than five per cent, but are still low.

The council does not measure how effective its communication with the public is, and does not fully communicate its service standards.

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

Build on the good consultation work already done with local people and improve feedback to the community. Ensure that publicity material is readily available and that service standards are clearly communicated.

Develop an improvement plan that clearly prioritises actions, particularly in relation to the council's commitment to recycling.

Improve working relationships with external organisations and non-council landowners to enhance the overall appearance of the borough.

The waste management and sustainability service includes:refuse collection for householders and businesses; waste management strategy, minimisation and recycling; and environmental cleaning.

The budget for the service in 2001/02 was£4.6m, of which£2.5m was for refuse collection and£1.9m for environmental cleaning. The service is mainly carried out by the council's Direct Services Organisation, with external contractors used for recycling provision.

Copies of the report are available from St Helens Council or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

NOTES

1. The service was inspected as part of the Government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3. The Audit Commission Inspection Service was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The Government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

5. Further details about the role of the Audit Commission can be obtained from - http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk

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