We’ve turned the corner says Norwich City Council

City Hall leaders today declared they had turned the corner in improving the fortunes of Norwich City Council as a special board set up to improve the running of the authority said its work was done while a government watchdog is set to hail a turnaround in the performance of its landlord services.

The council hit rock bottom 18 months ago after a Audit Commission report into its landlord and tenancy services gave it a damning zero rating.

While the authority also set up an corporate improvement and efficiency board to overhaul the running of the council to ward off the real risk that the government would put the council on 'special measures' if it could not sort itself out.

That board, chaired by council leader Steve Morphew, and comprising leading outside experts from across the region has now completed is work which has seen a cutting back of senior management levels, a new approach to reviewing contract and purchasing cost and savings of �10m.

Meanwhile the Audit Commission is expected to announce in a forthcoming report that the council is making 'excellent' progress in meeting challenging targets to improve the housing service.

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Last week a review of the service the council provides to its tenants was carried out by the commission and its initial feedback brought glowing praise. The council has also been accredited under the nationally recognised Customer Service Excellence Standard, following an independent assessment at the end of last year.

The council also set up a separate housing improvement board (HIB) made up of both people from the council and other organisations, as well as tenants, was established, which acts as 'critical friend' or adviser.

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Peter Godard, chairman of the corporate improvement and efficiency board said: 'The strides the council has already made to improve services have been remarkable. Throughout my involvement with this programme of work, I have been impressed with the consistent willingness and enthusiasm shown by staff.'

Mr Morphew said: 'Having a collection of critical and expert friends who we could trust meant we were able to be honest with them and them with us. Sometimes you can be too close to things and the board were able to help us to question, and in some cases re-think what we did. As well as helping us refine our improvement and savings programme, they were able to unlock valuable resources to help us reshape the council.'

Judith Lubbock, leader of the Liberal Democrat group said: 'Tenants would have been up in arms if they hadn't improved, but it's how they have improved and whether or not they can keep it up.' Do you have a council story for the Evening News? Contact Shaun Lowthorpe on 01603 772471 or email shaun.lowthorpe@archant.co.uk

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