An Audit Commission inspection team gave the service 2 stars out of a possible three because the council is clear about how it plans to improve the services, what it wants to achieve. In addition, delivery against it's local transport plan (LTP) has been effective. The council has a good record in improving travel safety throughout the county and accident rates have been falling in recent years, with notable reductions in the number of accidents involving childern.
'Worcestershire CC provides good transportation services with promising prospects for improvement. It is good to see a council which has successfully introduced innovative working practices and is prepared to take measured risks to find new ways of improving services. The council has a strong record in the important area of road safety.'
The inspectors found that:
* There are clearly defined aims for the service that are consistently addressed throughout the various levels of community, corporate and service planning
* The council has set itself challenging targets in many areas and can demonstrate strong delivery against many of these. Delivery against schemes identified in the local transport plan (LTP) is also good.
* Innovative working practices have been introduced by the council to improve performance and measured risks have been taken to find new ways of improving services
* There are generally good working relationships between the council and its contractors and partners, such as district councils, health bodies and community groups and overall the council has a strong record on road safety
There are some weaknesses including:
* Target setting and monitoring are weak in some areas of activity such as for increasing cycling, public transport usage and improving freight movement across the county
* Progress is needed on implementing school travel plans
* The council has spread its resources too thinly in some areas and has not maximised the impact of some schemes
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including that the council should:
* Focus on the development of school travel plans to support the good work done on safer routes to school.
* Review the council's approach to communication to ensure that partners, stakeholders and the public are clearly informed about the objectives of specific improvement schemes.
* Specifically, work with Worcester City Council to find an agreed resolution, as a matter of priority, to the disagreements on transport policy and the structure and management of the transportation partnership unit.
Worcestershire CC is located in the southern part of the West Midlands. The population from the 2001 census is 542,000. The council is Conservative led, with minority control (26 of the 57 seats). The council employs just over 11,000 staff across all services.
The transportation and road safety best value review covered:
* Transport policy and strategy
* Sustainability and traffic reduction
* Road safety, including accident studies and school crossing patrols
* The delivery of schemes including transportation improvement and road safety, but excluding highways maintenance and public transport
More than 84 per cent of the council's highways service is contracted out, including a£1.5m per annum contract for professional and technical consultancy services. The in-house transportation and road safety unit revenue budget was£1.547m in 2003/04 compared to£1.390m in 2002/03. The transportation and road safety unit employed 48 staff in 2003/04.
Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk