The council invited the Audit Commission to visit Sutton as part of the first round of inspections. The commission's team of three inspectors spent three weeks, working with councillors, housing staff and residents. The report concludes that Sutton's housing service is currently rated 'fair' and is expected to improve further in the coming years.(See also LGCnet BEST VALUE INSPECTION SERVICE PUBLISHES REPORT INTO SUTTON COUNCIL.
Council leader, Mike Cooper, said: 'We began a review of our housing function in March 1999, a year before best value reviews became compulsory. This was because we wanted to apply best value principles to a strategic review of the future of the whole housing function before the housing management contract let to a private contractor under the old CCT legislation came to an end in March 2001.
'We wanted the Audit Commission to inspect how we had handled a complex and challenging review of a service which we know had strengths but also areas needing improvement. We did not have the definitive guidance in place when we did the review, but we did heed the advice to review first those services about which we had most concern.'
'We want to stress that the housing management service was being delivered under the restrictions of earlier CCT legislation. We had already agreed that the strategy committee (on 26 September) would consider a report on future housing management arrangements and a revised best value in housing action plan' in the light of the decision made in July 2000 to retain the housing stock. We will now be able to set targets for improvements within a more rigorous timetable which we can be confident of meeting.'
'We are pleased that performance levels have been rising recently in some key performance areas. There are many aspects of the service that we can be proud of and of course some areas where we must do better.
'This is why we chose the service for early review. By continuing to develop and implement our own best value action plan, while taking on board the Audit Commission's recommendations, I am confident we can meet the challenges that lie ahead.'
'We support the overall recommendations in the report which are in line with how the council wishes to improve its services. We have taken this inspection as a learning exercise, as we believe the Audit Commission have done too.'