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Staffordshire CC's communication with the public by electronic media is fair with promising prospects for improveme...
Staffordshire CC's communication with the public by electronic media is fair with promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star* because the council is providing some of its services to the public in ways which support its aims and vision for electronic communication.

Mary Perry, commissioning inspector, Central Region Audit Commission Inspection Service, said:

'The council has made a fair start in developing access to services and information on its website and in developing the infrastructure it needs to improve electronic communication. We are encouraged by the council's commitment to the partnership of local service providers and the examples of this partnership working in practice. It will be necessary for the council to develop detailed plans for achieving its vision and to tackle a lack of internal co-operation and co-ordination.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- The council has taken note of the results of consultation with its customers and has recognised the importance of improving access by a range of means, not just electronically.

- The council has engaged in a far reaching and effective partnership with other local authorities and organisations which means that customers will be able to go to one point of contact to get an effective service from a number of agencies in Staffordshire.

- Elements of electronic communication and service delivery are being put in place, such as an improved website, one-stop shops and a broadband network with connectivity for all partners.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- Overall progress in achieving electronic communications and hitting government targets is patchy, and while some things are being done quite well, in an uncoordinated way, other things are not being done at all.

- A fundamental culture change is needed if the council is to achieve its vision.

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

- Address the fundamental change required to deliver the government's electronic communications agenda, including co-operation, co-ordination, cross-departmental organisation of services and corporate management of information.

- Produce a detailed plan of action as soon as possible which clearly links to measurable improvements in services to the public.

The review of communications with the public via electronic media covered the use of telephones, internet access, PCs in libraries, county council broadband links and one stop shops. Due to the cross-cutting nature of the review, there is no clear indication of the total cost of this 'service'. However, the council has identified future capital costs in excess of£9m.

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