Councils are Best Value stars

14 Sep 00
The first seven councils to be assessed on Best Value criteria by Wendy Thomson's new local government inspectorate have passed with flying colours.

15 September 2000

Thomson, the former chief executive of the London Borough of Newham, is head of the new inspectorate, which operates under the aegis of the Audit Commission and has 300 staff now launched on a rolling programme of inspections. The unit is backed by the threat of Whitehall intervention if performance in particular sectors fails repeatedly to match the required standards.

The first seven inspection reports were published on September 12, based on on-site inspections in July and August, including interviews with staff, councillors and members of the public using the services.

The inspection regime rates each service on a four-tier star system, ranging from three stars for excellent, to one (could do better) and none (failure).

Top of the charts among the first seven services assessed was Bolton council's legal department, which was given three stars for its 'excellent' service which clients praised for its 'flexible working, accessibility, responsiveness and quality of advice'. But the report adds one caution, saying the service is 'unlikely to improve unless a number of key recommendations are followed through'.

The tone is similarly upbeat for Sutton council's housing service (two stars, 'delivers a fair service to its tenants and landlords'), Dacorum council's housing, cleaning and caretaking section (two stars, 'a commitment and pride among staff regarding the quality of services') and Dudley council's waste management department (two stars, 'delivers clean streets and manages waste to incineration well').

Newham council's passenger transport service is good and likely to improve (two stars), and Sefton's building services and Pembrokeshire's tourist information services also attracted the inspectors' approval, although with room for improvement.

'The first round of reports paints an encouraging picture for local government and its drive towards improvement and delivering excellent services to the public,' said Thomson.

'Some authorities are already demonstrating ambition and innovation.'

Talking about the new inspectorate's work, she said: 'Local government may not always be sexy, but it spends £70bn annually of public money. So there is an important question to be asked about how you get the best value without jeopardising local democracy.'


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