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Issue:- 09/10 December 2009

Liverpool City Council is "performing well"

LIVERPOOL City Council is “performing well”, according to a new independent assessment by the Audit Commission.  The grading - equivalent to getting 3 out of 4 stars - is part of the new Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA).

It means the city has gone from being ranked as 1 star (poor) to doing well in less than 2 years - making it one of the most improved in the country, despite a tougher inspection regime in the areas of resources and children’s services.

Council leader Warren Bradley said:- “2 years ago we embarked on a fundamental root and branch reform of the council, and today’s judgment demonstrates that we have made significant improvements in the way the council is being run. 

Many of the front line services that we deliver have been steadily improving for many years, but more recently we have worked really hard on improving value for money and concentrating our spending in priority areas.”

Inspectors have found that the council:-

• Has improved the way it runs itself and is addressing previous weaknesses

• Manages its finances better and has improved the way it commissions services

• Has a clear vision for the future based around its core aims

• Works well on issues like health and employment

Councillor Bradley added:- “If you look right across the whole range of council services, whether it’s education, social services, parks and environment or benefits, there is absolutely no doubt that we are now serving the people of the city well.  But I am not complacent and we clearly have more to do to achieve our ambition of becoming an excellent authority. However, I am confident that with the clear leadership and vision from both senior councillors and officers working with our staff and partner organisations, we will make further improvements.”

The report praises the council for its “major success” in growing the economy through initiatives such as Liverpool One, Liverpool Science Park, the Capital of Culture title and the Arena and Convention Centre.  It also highlights the “excellent” rating for adult social care by the Care Quality Commission, and the fact that OFSTED has continued to grade children’s services as “performing well” - despite a tougher inspection regime nationally following the Baby Peter case.

Work with partner organisations such as Liverpool PCT to reduce health inequalities - such as free Lifestyles leisure passes for under 17s and over 60s – is noted, along with improvements in educational attainment which have seen the city bettering the national average for GCSE results.

Council Chief Executive Colin Hilton said:- “I would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff for their hard work and dedication in helping us achieve so much over the last 2 years.  We have some of the best people in local government here in Liverpool who are completely focused on meeting our aims of growing the economy, developing our communities and empowering our residents.”

Liverpool’s report can be found on the Oneplace website.

Progress against the council’s aims – the inspectors comments

Grow the city’s economy – The strong focus on growing the economy has been a major success. As result there has been a significant increase in jobs, for example, in the culture, tourism and retail sectors. Liverpool’s economy is now much more broadly based and resilient, and although the recession is having an impact, the city is in a better position to weather the storm.

Develop our communities – Streets are getting cleaner, recycling levels continue to rise and the state of the pavements and roads have improved. Crime and anti-social behaviour is falling and there is good work with partners to improve the health of local people. As a consequence resident satisfaction has increased.

Empower our residents – The council is working well with others to encourage people to improve their skills to help them find work. Educational attainment continues to improve – with pupils outperforming the national average in GCSE results. There are good services for children in public care, and ‘at risk’ children are kept safe. Adult social care is excellent, becoming more responsive to individual needs allowing people to make choices about the type of care they receive and pay for.

City partnership praised in new assessment

PUBLIC sector agencies working in partnership in Liverpool have been praised for the work they are doing to improve life chances for residents.

The city’s 1st ever Comprehensive Area Assessment has been unveiled by the Audit Commission. It looks at how well the city council, police, fire, health and other services are working together to tackle local priorities through the city’s strategic partnership, Liverpool First.

The city is measured against how it is achieving against the 5 priority areas set out in the city’s 15 year Sustainable Community Strategy vision - ‘Liverpool 2024: a thriving international city.’  Green flags highlight exceptional performance, innovation and best practice and red flags highlight areas where further action is needed.

Liverpool’s Area Assessment has found that it is delivering against its vision and doing well in areas such as environmental, culture and tourism, transport, health and regeneration.  The city gets a green flag – the only one in the City Region - for its “impressive results” through Citysafe in making Liverpool a safer place. This has been achieved through the city’s Joint Agency Group, which resulted in a 40 per cent drop in city centre crime in the last three years along with dramatic falls in student burglaries and a reduction in anti-social behaviour across the city.

Council leader and Chair of Liverpool First, Warren Bradley said:- “This report highlights the excellent progress Liverpool’s public sector agencies are making to improve life in the city.  It is clear that by working well together we have achieved a great deal, particularly around regeneration and making Liverpool a safer place to live in, work in and visit.

But we still need to get more people into work, make sure our young people get the best possible qualifications and improve the condition of private sector housing in the city.  We are all completely focused on making sure we give everybody in this city the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Liverpool is praised for providing “high quality cultural activities” for residents and visitors, increases in visitor numbers, the Creative Communities programme and the plan to ensure the legacy of Capital of Culture continues to benefit the city.  There is recognition of the regeneration of Liverpool, which has led the city to have a faster economic growth rate than other areas in the north west, and the work going on to help people get access to jobs. The report says that partners are putting together “good plans” to deal with the impact of the recession.

Liverpool First Director Carol Perry said:- “Liverpool is working better together than it has ever done. This assessment recognises the strength of our performance against the city vision. The partnership is making a real difference to residents’ life chances, which is due in part to the passion and determination of all the public sector agencies to make a real difference.  This is the city’s first assessment and to receive national recognition for Citysafe’s excellent work in community safety is a fantastic accolade for Liverpool.”

The report also notes improvements in public transport and reducing congestion, along with the decrease in car trips and increase in rail use which has led to an improvement in air quality.  It also says there are good prospects for future improvement through personal travel planning which is designed to encourage public transport, cycling and walking.

Improvements in reducing levels of heart disease and strokes are highlighted, as is the work which is ongoing to reduce childhood obesity and cut the number of people who are smoking – down from 35% in 2005 to 28% in 2009.  It says the health of children and young people is supported well and that satisfaction with play areas and parks is “much higher” in Liverpool than elsewhere.

However, the city gets a red flag for the condition of private sector housing. Plans are currently underway to address this, such as refurbishing or redeveloping areas of unsustainable or poor housing. The report does note good work being done in this area, and specifically praises the Healthy Homes initiative to identify and help vulnerable people who are living in poor conditions.

Carol Perry said:- “As a city we know more needs to be done to get the private sector housing up to scratch. We have clear plans in place to make these improvements and by working effectively as a partnership, we will continue to regenerate areas of the city we know need improvement.”

Liverpool’s report can be found at online.

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