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TWO STARS FOR DACORUM BC'S SPORTS CENTRES

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The sports centres service provided by Dacorum BC is 'good', with excellent prospects of further improvement, accor...
The sports centres service provided by Dacorum BC is 'good', with excellent prospects of further improvement, according to an independent report released on Friday, 11 January 2002 by the Audit Commission.

The best value inspection team gave the service a '2 star'* rating because it offers customers an extensive range of activities in well-maintained facilities and effort is made to ensure that everyone in the community feels welcome and is able to participate.

Andy Walford, acting regional director, central region best value inspection service, said:

'The sports centres service in Dacorum attracts a high number of customers who are very satisfied with the service which they receive. The Best Value Review identified further improvements which could be made and many of these are now being put in place.

'The service has plans to improve management information and marketing, and to analyse why the service is high cost. We are confident that the plans, commitment and resources are available to further enhance the service in the future.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

-- the number of visitors places the service in the top 25 per cent of best

performing councils;

-- customers are very satisfied with the good facilities and range of activities, and their comments, suggestions or complaints are listened to and appropriate action is taken;

-- the service is quick to respond to changing demands and new products in the

leisure market.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

-- there is a lack of reliable management information to inform development and the service does not yet have a marketing strategy to help ensure it is reaching all groups in the community;

-- the service is high cost, and not all the reasons for this have been fully

analysed.

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

-- Obtain reliable baseline date from which to measure progress towards

targets, especially with regard to involvement of all groups in the community,

and monitor through performance management systems;

-- Review pricing to ensure this reflects the market and accords with service

priorities.

-- Cllr Julian Taunton, cabinet member with portfolio for community services said:

'I congratulate all the officers involved in providing the sports centres service. Their enthusiasm and professionalism has brought about a very impressive result. We will all work together to ensure we achieve a three star rating at our next review.'

The service consists of the sports centres at Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring and Longdean, together with Dacorum Athletics Track. The cost of providing the service in 2001/02 is estimated at just over£1.4m. It is currently managed directly by the council, although the option of setting up a not-for-profit trust is being investigated.

Copies of the report are available from Dacorum BC or on the Best Value website at www.bestvalueinspections.gov.uk.

NOTES:

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 Best Value 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

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