Council joy at 'excellent' ranking

SOUTH Norfolk council is celebrating being ranked among the best performing local authorities in England - becoming a trailblazer for district councils in the county.

SOUTH Norfolk council is celebrating being ranked among the best performing local authorities in England - becoming a trailblazer for district councils in the county.

The Audit Commission on Tuesday unveiled its scores for Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) - the rigorous national league table of councils' performance, and announced that South Norfolk is an “excellent council” - an accolade that only seven out of a total of 44 councils in East Anglia have achieved.

The authority's leader, John Fuller, said: “We're all thrilled that South Norfolk now joins the premier league of councils officially recognised as having a proven ability to deliver for residents at a price they can afford.

“South Norfolk is now officially the top-rated council in Norfolk and I'd like to pay tribute to the staff and councillors who can be proud of this magnificent achievement. We were confident of receiving top-marks from the inspectors but it's always pleasing to have your hopes confirmed.”

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Murray Gray, leader of the council's Liberal Democrat opposition group, added: “I am delighted by, and very proud of, the significant achievements made by the council during the assessment period from 2003 to 2007,” also praising staff and councillors for their endeavours.

In 2003, at the request of the council, it was inspected by the Audit Commission and marked “good”. Last year's inspection was again at the request of the council and this time it was found to be excellent.

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The much sought-after inspection result - the top grading for a local council - follows hard work by staff, managers and partners to progressively push up standards and deliver excellent and improving services to local people.

Chief Executive Geoff Rivers said: “It's great news for the council and its partner agencies. It will put a spring in our stride as we move forward to area inspections in 2009.”

South Norfolk's benefits service was singled out for praise by CPA inspectors in their report. It is considered the best in the country.

Other strengths included the high quality services provided, understanding of residents' needs, strong leadership, and effective use of technology to improve access to services.

It is the only district council in Norfolk to currently have top rating. Breckland Council, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, and Great Yarmouth BC are all ranked as “good”, and Norwich City, Broadland and North Norfolk councils are “fair”.

Bury St Edmunds Borough Council joins South Norfolk in moving up to excellent. Both will now have the benefit of a minimal inspection regime by the Audit Commission, allowing staff and resources to focus even more on continuing to provide excellent services.

Cabinet members on Monday confirmed proposals for a zero increase in South Norfolk's council tax demand for 2008/09. Council leader John Fuller said the authority could have afforded a 6 per cent tax cut if it had not been required to set aside £300,000 for local government reorganisation plans.

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