Environmental services drive councils’ success

Environmental services have been singled out for praise in the latest review of councils’ performance.

The Audit Commission’s Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) report highlighted the improvements made in environmental services, which have helped councils improve their overall performance.

Some 79 per cent of councils achieved three or four star ratings overall, rising to 84 per cent when judged solely on environmental performance. Recycling has been a particular success story, the report found, with both council performance and user satisfaction showing improvement.

The report has been greeted a success. For the first time since the CPA was launched in 2002 no council has received a zero star ranking and the number achieving a top score of four stars has risen.

Some 32 councils have improved by at least one star. Three councils improved by two grades; north east Lincolnshire, formerly holding zero stars, and Havering and Waltham Forest, now on three stars.

Michael O’Higgins, Chairman of the Audit Commission, said: “Once again councils have demonstrated a desire and an ability to deliver better services for local people.

“CPA – The Harder Test was introduced to raise the bar for councils, and the 2006 results show that they continue to rise to the challenge.”

The results show that it is possible for all councils to make improvements, Mr O’Higgins added, urging councils at the lower end to “pull out all the stops”.

The Local Government Association (LGA) welcomed the report, saying it praised councils for real achievements.

Lord Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of LGA: “Councils’ commitment to driving up standards is going from strength to strength and performance continues to improve albeit with strained resources.

“The Audit Commission has reported that councils are delivering an ever better deal for taxpayers and they already have the best track record on efficiency savings in the public sector.”

Nevertheless, he warned against complacency, saying that “all councils must match the best and the best will raise our game again.”

Councillor Sir Simon Milton, chair of the LGA’s Improvement Board added: “Central government cannot ignore this fantastic achievement and must realise that working with partners at the local level to deliver better local services for people is key to what residents expect and deserve.”

He called for central government to devolve more freedom and discretion to the local level to enable councils to continue their success.