The Audit Commission inspection team gave the services two stars* because there is close working with a range of partners to increase road safety and promote the use of public transport. Customer satisfaction is generally good and public feedback is positive.
Jo Webb, commissioning inspector, Northern Region Audit Commission Inspection Service, said:
'Overall we think that the service has excellent prospects for significant and sustained improvement. Councillors and officers are committed to achieving this and have a good recent track record of managing change and improvement. However, the council must now start to monitor the level of success it achieves on various projects and use this information to drive further improvement. It must also ensure that pre-planned priority work is not delayed by responding to local ad-hoc demands. We're confident the council is working to address these two issues.'
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
- The public, stakeholders and councillors are actively involved in consultation and decision-making processes;
- Road safety campaigns and the promotion of healthier forms of transport are helping to make Stockport a safer and healthier place to live and work;
- Stockport is doing well when compared to other authorities across the country, particularly in reducing the number of people hurt in road accidents.
However, inspectors also found weaknesses:
- There is not enough information on the cost of various schemes and projects, and to what extent they have been successful in improving things for people living and working in Stockport;
- Customers are unhappy with the length of time it takes for schemes such as road improvements to be put in place;
- There is a lack of publicity and positive promotion of the services which could help to counter the negative local press coverage.
To help the services improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
- Improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the service by, for example, ensuring a balance between pre-planned high priority projects and ad-hoc work in response to local demand;
- Compare performance with the best councils to help match their standards. This should including achieving national security standards for car parks and the town centre;
- Develop a positive public relations programme to counter negative press coverage and to improve the information available about the services provided.
The council is responsible for all roads and public rights of way in the borough, except motorways and major trunk roads which are the responsibility of the Highways Agency. The traffic, road safety, car parks and public rights of way services have 45 full-time equivalent staff plus school crossing patrol staff and car park attendants. The budget for all the services for 2001/02 is about£5m with an expected income from car parking of£2.7m.