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The traffic management, road safety and car parking services provided by Sunderland City Council are good and have ...
The traffic management, road safety and car parking services provided by Sunderland City Council are good and have promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the services two stars because they are clearly focused on improving the quality of life for the people of Sunderland, and are supporting the regeneration of the city centre.

Mick Hannon, commissioning inspector, Northern Region Audit, said:

'The inspection team were pleased to see the positive impact of some of Sunderland's schemes. It is really good news that road accidents and car crime have both been cut, although the levels still need to be reduced further.

'Although the council still has some difficult issues to resolve, especially regarding the conflict of interest between the travel and environmental needs, the implementation of the service's improvement plan together with the inspection team's recommendations, should have a major positive impact on the community.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

Car crime in city centre car parks has been greatly reduced in recent years, and traffic calming schemes have contributed positively to the council's crime and disorder strategies.

Low-cost engineering schemes have been successfully targeted at places with high numbers of road accidents, resulting in high levels of casualty reductions.

The council deals with many requests for service in an efficient and effective manner, and customers are kept informed. Good public information is available, in leaflets and on the website. Customer perceptions of the service are mostly positive.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

The proportion of pedestrians killed and seriously injured in road accidents is still high.

There are tensions between travel needs and sustainability issues and the council has not clearly stated where its priorities lie. Delivering, for example, the Green Travel Plan will require the council to make some difficult decisions.

With the exception of St Mary's car park, all multi-storey car parks have unappealing features such as difficult access, structural problems, security difficulties, redundant equipment and no change machines.

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

Ensure the service is competitive by making sure minor works schemes are cost-effective, and learning best practice from other providers and technical groups such as the County Surveyors Society.

Develop publicity information for councillors and the public to promote better understanding of the service's activities.

Look at ways to reduce crime in car parks, and include the aim to 'reduce crime and the fear of crime for car park users' in the council's draft Crime and Disorder Strategy 2002-2005.

The traffic management, road safety and car parking service costs about£2.383m with an income of£1.984m resulting in a net cost of£399,000 in 2001/02. The service employs 40 full-time staff and 117 part-time staff. Its responsibilities include:

* managing the city's car parks

* traffic schemes to benefit cycles, buses, and other road users, and to improve road safety

* parking control

* school crossing patrols

* educational and training programmes

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