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UNCERTAIN PROSPECTS FOR CRAWLEY BC'S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SERVICE

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The economic issues service provided by Crawley Borough Council are poor with uncertain prospects for improvement, ...
The economic issues service provided by Crawley Borough Council are poor with uncertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The inspection report highlights some strengths:

- The council has identified economic Issues as one of its four major themes; and

- The council has had some success in developing a number of initiatives in partnership with other organisations, such as 'Fastway' (its integrated transport scheme) and its 'Memorandum of Agreement' with Gatwick Airport and neighbouring councils.

However, these are outweighed by major weaknesses. The inspection team gave the service no stars* because:

- The council failed to consider in its review of the service the wider question of what it wants to achieve for the borough's economy and how best to achieve it;

- The council does not have a clear idea of the work carried out across all its services which may have an impact on the economy or what that impact is; and

- The council does not have a culture of dealing with poor performance, although it is putting systems in place to provide performance information.

Steven Shuttleworth, managing inspector, southern region, said: 'We found that Crawley Borough Council is unclear about what the local economy needs or its role in meeting those needs. Much of its economic development work is uncoordinated. The council has no way of measuring results, so it is not possible to see what real difference it is having on economic development in Crawley. The council is developing a performance management system and there is top level commitment to economic development work. However, it has a long way to go in terms of making improvements which residents and users of the service will notice.'

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

- Define the council's objectives for the economy of the borough and the council's role in achieving these objectives;

- Look into alternative ways of managing the town centre and identify where the council might currently be duplicating the efforts of other agencies as a matter of urgency; and

- Develop its capacity to monitor and measure service performance.

The council has an economic development unit consisting of three staff with a budget of£296,000, but the wider work of the council also contributes to economic development. The review was intended to look at how the council as a whole addresses economic issues within the borough, and how all its services and activities contribute to developing the local economy.

Copies of the report are available from Crawley Borough Council Council or on the Audit Commission website.

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