SIGNIFICANT improvements have taken place at the once failing South Cambridgeshire District, according to an Audit Commission report published on Thursday. The council has significantly improved its accountability and communication with the public over
SIGNIFICANT improvements have taken place at the once failing South Cambridgeshire District, according to an Audit Commission report published on Thursday.
The council has significantly improved its accountability and communication with the public over the past year, the report says.
Speaking to The Hunts Post, leader of the council, Councillor Ray Manning, said: "We've done what we set out to do. We've stuck to our improvement plan and we've made real progress and delivered significant changes in areas identified in the original report. We said we didn't do failure and we have proved that."
A year ago the council was branded as failing by the Audit Commission.
As reported in The Hunts Post, last February, the damning report condemned the council for poor decision making, a lack of leadership and a "failure to deliver services for local people."
In a year, the council is said to have turned things around in a dramatic improvement plan put in place by leader Cllr Manning, his deputy Cllr Simon Edwards and chief executive Greg Harlock.
Improvements include the introduction of plastic kerbside recycling and the introduction of a planning helpdesk.
Mr Horlock said: "The biggest single catalyst for change in South Cambridgeshire was the last year's Audit Commission report, without that I do not know how we would have made been able to make so many changes."
Audit Commission senior manager Nigel Smith said: "South Cambridgeshire District Council has responded positively to the 2007 corporate governance inspection report. It has improved the way it works with partners and is now more open and willing to take advice from others. Communication is better and both internal and external relationships have improved."
Despite the improvements both the council and the Audit Commission know there is still work to be done.
Mr Smith added: "The problems facing the Council were always going to take more than a year to resolve. A good start has been made, but it is critical that momentum is maintained."
The report said: "It was clear from the outset that the problems facing the council were going to take more than a year to resolve. Much work needs remains to bring all areas up to minimum requirements."
Areas where further progress is needed include further improvements in leadership and political culture and ensuring that policies take account of the needs and well-being of all sections of its community. Communication with travellers and parish councils is still said to need improvement.
Cllr Manning said: "We accept the recommendations of the report and we aren't complacent. We always said this would be a two-year journey and we look forward to working further with our external colleagues on the second half of our plan. This report is a welcome clarification of where we need to take further action and we will follow this through.
"I would like to pay tribute to staff and councillors who, alongside their day jobs, have contributed so much in helping us reach this point."
He added: "Residents will really start to see the benefits. This really is an exciting time to be at South Cambridgeshire District Council."
As a result of the report, the Audit Commission has no plans to re-inspect the council or refer it to the secretary of state.
INFORMATION: To view the report in full, visit www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports
Areas of improvement include:
- The council now takes an active and influential role in setting the local growth agenda.
- The council provides improved leadership across a range of other local issues
- Corporate planning processes are more coherent and transparent.
- Communications with the public, and with staff, are more open and effective
- Difficult decisions are being made rather than deferred
- Councillor conduct has improved, leading to better relationships between Councillors and officers.