The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star with promising prospects for improvement as the council has acknowledged that local people have not been well served and has recently made significant improvements, such as reducing the number of missed bins and clearing away fly tips more quickly.
'Welwyn Hatfield intends to improve efficiency by moving to front door refuse collection and reviewing procurement arrangements. The service will also broaden the range of recyclables collected from home. This will be supported by more enforcement and better customer service. We think that this, combined with better communication to customers and more public performance information will help the service to improve.'
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
-- The council has a strong record on recycling and performs within the top 25% of councils nationally
-- It collects a comparatively low weight per head in refuse, and over 12000 home composters are in use
-- It has made significant recent performance improvements in reducing missing bins and in its response times in dealing with fly tips and abandoned cars.
However, inspectors also found weaknesses:
-- Customer satisfaction with refuse collection and cleanliness of streets and open spaces in Welwyn Hatfield is comparatively low
-- Apart from street cleaning, the services are comparatively expensive
-- It is not currently clear what customers should expect from the services and it is not easy for them to contact the service by telephone.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
-- Improving communication to the public, explaining planned service changes and developing and publishing service standards
-- Undertaking a clear assessment of the risks involved in the proposed procurement arrangements for the service.
The environment service includes grounds maintenance, landscape and trees, refuse collection, street cleansing, recycling and cemeteries. The combined cost of the services is estimated at£5,146,545 for 2002/3, and 111 full time equivalent people are employed by the council in delivering them.
Copies of the report are available from Welwyn Hatfield Council or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk