Council slammed again by watchdog

FOR the second time in less than two years a north Suffolk district council has been severely criticised by a Government watchdog.The housing service provided by Waveney District Council has received a zero star “poor” rating in an Audit Commission report.

FOR the second time in less than two years a north Suffolk district council has been severely criticised by a Government watchdog.

The housing service provided by Waveney District Council has received a zero star “poor” rating in an Audit Commission report.

In December 2004 the council was labelled “weak” by the commission and was the poorest performing district council in Suffolk.

Since then senior councillors and council officials have made a number of improvements - but this latest report has come as a devastating blow.


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On a scale from zero to three stars, the commission inspection team gave Waveney's housing service a “poor” no star rating.

“Performance in most areas of the service is weak and some way below that of comparable councils.

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“Services are not easily accessible or delivered in a way that best meets tenants' needs and do not represent value for money,” it said.

Mark Elsworth, the commission's lead housing inspector for the east of England, said: “There are significant weaknesses in the housing service provided by the council.

“There is a need for the council to focus on getting the basics right and on improving the services it provides to customers.”

Mr Elsworth said the council had to ensure it delivered a programme of improvements so that it could effectively meet the housing needs of the people of Waveney.

The report highlights a number of areas for improvement including:

n Services are not easily accessible because of their location and restricted opening hours.

n Customers are not involved in improving and shaping all services as the council is not actively seeking their views.

n The council's understanding and knowledge of the district's housing needs is limited.

n The council is not making satisfactory progress towards addressing poor housing conditions in the private sector and some residents are left waiting a long time for disabled facilities grants.

Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, said the report followed an inspection made in November last year and that problems highlighted are already being tackled.

“We were fully aware that improvements were required which is why we have been taking strides to effect real change through a wide-ranging and meticulous improvement plan.

“The report itself acknowledges that improvements had already been made in areas such as homelessness prevention and through the introduction of a private sector leasing scheme to provide better quality temporary accommodation. But this is only the beginning,” he said.

Mr Bee said the commission had recently visited Waveney and gave an “encouraging” report on the progress of the council as a whole.

Last month the council's housing tenants voted overwhelmingly to stay with the authority rather than transfer to a housing association.

More than 4,500 tenants voted on the proposal with 67.7% (£,050) voting to stay with Waveney District Council rather than transfer to the newly-formed Waveney Valley Housing Association.

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