County rating falls but report highlights success
DESPITE an overall rating of only two out of four – down from the top mark of four last year – services provided by Cambridgeshire County Council are still good, according to the Audit Commission. A report published yesterday (Tuesday) after an inspection
DESPITE an overall rating of only two out of four - down from the top mark of four last year - services provided by Cambridgeshire County Council are still good, according to the Audit Commission.
A report published yesterday (Tuesday) after an inspection in January said provision for children and old people, for dealing with waste and for public transport were good.
And it said health inequalities had been reduced among people living in Oxmoor, Huntingdon.
The council was also said to have made progress on reducing crime and promoted independence and well-being for older people.
However, CCC was criticised and marked down for not having a county-wide strategy. Bob Pearson, director of communications for the county, said Cambridgeshire was different from other authorities because districts within it, including Huntingdonshire District Council, wanted to develop their own strategic plans.
The report noted in particular that the authority had achieved reductions in crime and anti-social behaviour. It highlighted the Oxmoor Opportunities Partnership for bringing decreases in domestic burglary, criminal damage, violent crime and drug dealing.
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The report said: "Through the Fusion holiday play scheme, anti-social behaviour in the summer of 2006 was halved. Through these initiatives, there has been a reduction in fear of crime, making Oxmoor a safer place to live."
The report also has praise for the FLOWS project at Cambourne for sustainable water management and for establishing the guided busway before building the new town at Northstowe.
It says that the Greater Cambridge Partnership was an example of effective partnership, securing over £10million of external funding and had established projects to help disadvantage groups find employment.
The report found the council - the county's largest employer with about 18,000 staff - did not always clearly set out how it would realise its ambitions.
And although it had taken difficult decisions to reduce some services such as libraries it had not done so consistently.
The report's rating means that the Audit Commission believes the council is performing adequately, rather than well or strongly. It does, however, rate the overall service provided by the council to the people of Cambridgeshire as good, above minimum standard.
In a response, the council acknowledges that improvements need to be made in some areas such as developing a countywide vision and some internal processes, and says that an improvement plan developed some months ago is already showing results.
Council leader Shona Johnstone said the report had been considered in depth and considerable improvements made this year, since the inspection.
She said: "I am pleased that the Audit Commission rates the quality of our services as good. This is what matters most to the public.
"Education services are doing very well with many young people attaining excellent exam results. Services in areas including environment, economic development and transport are all praised. The report goes on to say that we are improving the quality of life for many of our residents."
"I am also pleased with acknowledgement that many of our services are very good value for money. This is essential if we are to retain high quality services with a Council Tax rate which remains one of the lowest in England. However, we need to increase quality in some areas such as services for older people and adults affected by disability.
"The overall score is disappointing and the report is clear that unless we up our game in key areas the quality of service will suffer.