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WARWICK'S OUTDOOR RECREATION AND LEISURE 'EXCELLENT'

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The outdoor recreation and amenity service provided by Warwick DC is excellent and has excellent prospects for furt...
The outdoor recreation and amenity service provided by Warwick DC is excellent and has excellent prospects for further improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service three stars* because of the high quality service it is delivering to local people.

We were particularly impressed with the extensive range of different types of outdoor recreation, with local neighbourhood recreation grounds, nature reserves, sports grounds, and flagship parks in the towns. The facilities are maintained to a high standard and local people are really pleased with the high quality innovative play equipment on offer.

The council is clear about what it can achieve through its parks and open spaces, and is working closely with a number of partners, to increase the choices for local people of all abilities.

The council has responded enthusiastically to the challenges of environmental management and bio-diversity, through activities such as cycle routes, composting, countryside management partnerships and a tree management plan.

Andy Walford, regional director - Central Region, Audit Commission Inspection Service, said:

'Warwick DC provides an excellent outdoor recreation and amenities service for local people. What is more, the council has ambitious plans for the future including making the service accessible to everyone, increasing facilities for teenagers and continued improvements to play areas and parks, such as Jephson Gardens.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- A good choice of parks and open spaces across the district

- The areas are varied and well maintained

- The service is working to make the parks accessible to everybody

- The cost of the service compares favourably with similar councils yet still achieves high satisfaction levels from residents and users

Inspectors also found weaknesses which the council has already begun to address. Publicity and promotion needs to be improved and specific provision for teenagers was not as good as for other sections of the community. The council also lacked detailed information about who used the service, for under-16s and visitors from outside the district.

The outdoor recreation and leisure services at Warwick DC costs£1,461,000 and provides 450 hectares of open space, including 45 play areas, 22 tennis courts, six bowling greens, 8 local nature reserves and 40 outdoor sports pitches.

A press release from the local authority follows.

HIGHEST AWARD FOR DISTRICT'S PARKS AND LEISURE

People in Warwick District can now boast about having some of the best parks, gardens and outdoor recreation facilities in the country. An in-depth independent review of the district has awarded top marks. This is the first time across the country that this has been achieved. The government Inspectors from the Audit Commission spent days visiting many of the area's parks and outdoor leisure facilities as well as grilling those responsible for them.

Importantly, members of the public and other community organisations in and around the area also had a say before the top rating of three stars was awarded - with excellent prospects for further improvements!

Warwick District councillor, Cheryl Flanagan, portfolio holder, said:

'These results are fitting recognition for the achievements of the staff over the past few years, with the award of Charter Mark in January, it caps an excellent year.

'Warwick District has now set the standard to which other areas must try to achieve. We should all be proud of this and of the area we live in'.

-- In assessing the service as excellent, the inspectors singled out the parks to be accessible, well-maintained and clean and tidy, with high quality, innovative play equipment.

-- Significantly, the cost to provide the service compares favourably with similar councils yet still achieves high satisfaction levels amongst local people and the visitors.

-- Their report goes on to say that the council is aware of the importance of careful environmental management and biodiversity, which shows through activities such as composting, cycle routes, its tree management plan and countryside management partnerships.

-- For the future, the Review recognises the council's plans to improve even more with investments of£2m in St Mary's Lands improvements, better spectator facilities at Edmondscote Athletics Track and significantly, that the council has a good track record of improving services and money is available to achieve these supported by both staff and councillors.

Janie Barrett, chief executive of Warwick DC, comments:

'We always strive, across the council, to provide a top class service and this is a further demonstration of what staff, councillors and partners can achieve together.'

Dale Best says:

'There is no doubt about it, this is great news for everyone, the public, staff, partners such as Glendale and members. However, the report recognises that the service is not perfect. It needs to develop a parks and outdoor recreation strategy, improve publicity and promotion and continue to expand provisions for teenagers'.

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