Councils get top marks
COUNTY councils in Norfolk and Suffolk are today celebrating getting top marks from an independent watchdog for their delivery of services.Norfolk County Council has achieved four-star status - up one star from last time round and the highest possible score from the Audit Commission's comprehensive performance assessments (CPA) - the last test of its kind before a switch to a new system next year.
COUNTY councils in Norfolk and Suffolk are today celebrating getting top marks from an independent watchdog for their delivery of services.
Norfolk County Council has achieved four-star status - up one star from last time round and the highest possible score from the Audit Commission's comprehensive performance assessments (CPA) - the last test of its kind before a switch to a new system next year.
Suffolk County Council also remains a four-star authority and both were considered by inspectors as “improving well”.
Cambridgeshire County Council stays a three-star authority - though inspectors upgraded the council to one that is “improving well”.
The commission has today published its verdict on 149 unitary and county councils in the country - just as a controversial local government review considers whether both Norfolk and Suffolk county councils, the only two in the region to secure four stars, should be scrapped in favour of new one-size- fits-all unitary authorities.
The report notes that in Norfolk educational attainment is on the increase, services for adults are good and improving, and, with its role promoting schemes such as the Yarmouth outer harbour and A11 dualling, the council is seen as a driving force for regeneration and providing strong community leadership.
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“Children are achieving more GCSEs, and attainment elsewhere is generally improving, although this remains a key priority for further improvement,” the report said. “Increasing numbers of young people are either in employment, education or training. Investment in prevention, and earlier intervention, is beginning to see reductions in the number of children taken into care.”
Since the inspection was carried out, Norfolk's adult social services bosses have been in the firing line recently over problems sparked by a new private contract for home care.
But the report notes that vulnerable adults and older people continue to receive good and improving services, although improvement is needed in supporting some people to maintain their independence and in reducing delayed transfers of care.
In Suffolk, inspectors said that fire and rescue services were performing well and the council was providing good value for money, but more should be done to boost the number of active library users and improve the condition of unclassified roads and footways.
And in Cambridgeshire there was praise for improvements in adult social care and recycling rates, but more could be done on improving satisfaction levels among library users.
Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, thanked staff for their efforts in securing the four-star rating.
“This is the last CPA judgment we will have because the regime is about to change, so I'm delighted that Norfolk County Council's final rating will be the maximum four stars,” he said. “The regime is not called 'The Harder Test' for nothing and despite the potentially unsettling and diversionary background posed by the Local Government Review, we have kept a determined focus on what matters to local people.”
Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, said the report was a strong endorsement for the exceptional services provided by the council.
Jill Tuck, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council said: “Clearly inspectors feel we are moving in the right direction and we will continue with our drive to continuously provide first-class services which meet the needs of everyone in the county.”