Wandsworth is number one for value
as Council named as one of the top five councils in the country by the Government's spending watchdog.
The Audit Commission awarded the council the maximum four stars for its performance and added that it was improving strongly - again the highest possible rating.
Wandsworth is also the only one of the leading group to receive top marks for its use of resources.
The results confirm Wandsworth services as the most cost effective of any local authority nationally.
The inspectors' final rankings do not include the council's record of providing the lowest council tax bills in the country. Applying this crucial indicator strengthens Wandsworth's position as the number one authority for value.
Council leader Edward Lister said:
"Wandsworth's success proves once again that you can deliver high quality public services while keeping council tax bills down. I don't think anyone can dispute now that Wandsworth is providing the best value for money for its residents of any council in the country. There is no magic to our method. We concentrate on doing the simple things well and search year on year for new ways of delivering services and lightening the tax burden for our residents.
"I am particularly delighted that the inspectors acknowledged our achievement in raising standards in seventy per cent of all indicators. This demonstrates more than anything our commitment to continuous improvement.
"It is time however for a rethink of the way these assessments are carried out. They are immensely time-consuming and costly for local authorities - particularly those already classed as top performers. We have repeatedly called for a new slim-line approach which concentrates the inspection resources on the weakest councils. Local authorities should also have more freedom to set their own service priorities.
"Setting all the indicators nationally allows no room for local accountability. Ministers should not assume that every community wants the same things from their council.
"Authorities like Wandsworth that put a lot of effort into listening to their residents are in a better position to identify the key issues for their area. This might include giving more weight to council tax levels and the commitment of the council to improving community safety and protecting the environment and quality of life for its residents."
Issuing its verdict on Wandsworth the Audit Commission said:
"Wandsworth Council has a strong record of improvement and any comparative weaknesses in performance are addressed in robust plans for the future. Over 70 per cent of performance indicators have improved since 2003/2004 and most are performing strongly. The council maintains a strong focus on value for money and is delivering improved outcomes in its priority areas. Wandsworth continues to have the lowest council tax while its children's services for example are delivering well above the minimum requirements."
This year's round of inspections included new tests on children's services and use of resources. The 'future prospects' category was also added for the first time.
The Audit Commission notes that while over 50 per cent of councils are delivering above minimum requirements in their use of resources, only three authorities achieve top performance - City of London, East Riding of Yorkshire and the London Borough of Wandsworth.
The Audit Commission's report, 'CPA - The Harder Test', analyses the results of 150 local authorities in England. The overall rating looks at a council's use of resources; work with children and young people; adult social care arrangements; payment and collection of benefits; cultural services; environment services; housing services; and corporate capacity to improve services.
December 15, 2005