The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star* because although it recognises the need to provide opportunities for everyone to take part in the leisure activity of their choice, there are weaknesses, including the variable quality of sports and leisure centres and parks.
'Together with the public, Trafford council has developed a leisure strategy, 'Leisure Matters!' which sets out an improvement programme for the period 2000 to 2005. It has also been successful in gaining external funding and working with partners to develop sport and leisure. However, the council must now develop a system to measure and monitor performance against agreed targets, and needs to ensure that priorities across the borough are not neglected.'
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
-- A range of activities and facilities are partly accessible to all people across the borough, and the service makes a positive contribution to the council's corporate priorities, such as crime prevention and providing services for vulnerable people.
-- Some charges have been set to encourage participation in areas of greatest deprivation and to address social exclusion issues. The council recognises the ethnic diversity of the borough and is working towards removing cultural and social barriers to participation.
-- There are some effective partnerships with other agencies, community groups, organisations, the private sector and the major sporting clubs and organisations in Trafford, for example, Manchester United Football Club, Lancashire County Cricket Club and Sale Sharks Rugby Union Club.
However, inspectors also found weaknesses:
-- Disabled access needs to be improved at some of the leisure centres, parks and open spaces, and existing sports and leisure facilities and services do not fully reflect the needs of ethnic minority communities.
-- Graffiti and vandalism are evident in parks and on leisure centre buildings, and dog fouling is a problem in green spaces. There is a lack of enforcement in tackling these issues.
-- Marketing and promotion of the service is inconsistent and often poorly presented and the leisure pass is not effectively promoted.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
-- Put up direction, information and interpretative signs in and around green spaces to attract and inform users, improve safety and to invite customers' views on the facilities.
-- Improve the marketing and promotion of indoor and outdoor sports and leisure services and make the Leisure Card easy to obtain and use so more people can benefit.
-- Reduce the amount of graffiti, litter and vandalism at indoor and outdoor locations and put in placecomprehensive education and enforcement policies to address this problem.
Trafford MBC restructured its services during 2001/2002 to provide an integrated leisure, parks and countryside service. The service manages the council-run leisure centres; facilities run by external contractors; and the council's parks and open spaces, including golf courses and a water sports centre. A sports development team provides a range of community activities, developing individual sports and addressing the needs of particular groups. In 2001/2002 the cost of these services was£7.4m.
Copies of the report are available from Trafford MBC or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk
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) and review all of their services over the next five years 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