£250,000 to improve performance

An under-fire council has secured £250,000 to fund a special taskforce to improve the “weak” performance rating handed out by government auditors.Waveney District Council received the scathing report in 2004 and last month its planning department was criticised further with a zero-star rating by the Audit Commission.

An under-fire council has secured £250,000 to fund a special taskforce to improve the “weak” performance rating handed out by government auditors.

Waveney District Council received the scathing report in 2004 and last month its planning department was criticised further with a zero-star rating by the Audit Commission.

Funds have been released by regional government to pay the salaries of a new Change and Improvement Team which will have until the end of March to improve under-performing areas such as customer service and planning.

Three former Suffolk County Council trouble-shooters have already been recruited, and interviews are under way this week to complete the five-strong team.

Last night a senior officer said the external cash was needed because staff development programmes and a wide-ranging consultation on the district's leisure needs had left it without the budget to pay for improvements.

But he warned the high level of investment meant they expected to see progress before interim assessments on their performance are made at the end of the year.

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Chief executive Glen Garrod said: “For a couple of years the council has been making steady progress but the pace of change has not been quick enough. The reason the new team has been taken on is to add a third gear in a number of specific areas.

“They are experienced in this work and they know how to unblock systems to make processes quicker.

“The council is a relatively poor one in terms of the funds available and has not got a huge amount of money to throw at things.

“We have been able to improve some areas, but at the expense of other things,” he added.

After two months of negotiation, the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) agreed to provide the money from regional government funding aimed at improving weak councils.

Mr Garrod said with the Audit Commission due to deliver a Direction of Travel report in December, the new team would be under pressure to turn around the failing departments to avoid the possibility of the council falling into government administration should its rating slip further.

“If you get that level of investment, people expect a return,” he said.

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