Town hall staff win holiday for four-star report

CAMDEN Council has come away from an assessment report with a major coup, being named the best-performing council in England

Miguel Cullen

CAMDEN Council has come away from an assessment report with a major coup, being named the best-performing council in England.

The council was awarded a maximum four stars across the board and was rated "outstanding" in the Audit Commission's Corporate Assessment Report.

The report, compiled over four years of inspection spanning two administrations, did however criticise the condition in which council housing stock is kept and also pushed for more voluntary sector involvement in council decisions.

Nevertheless, council chiefs are delighted and identified projects, including the King's Cross regeneration and the Camden's Working job-finding service in Swiss Cottage library, as highlights.

Council leader Keith Moffitt reserved his highest praise for council officers, who were given a day's holiday for the honour.

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"It's a fantastic achievement. It's great to achieve this two years after a change in the administration," he said.

"The commission talked to everyone when compiling the review - from parties in the voluntary sector to business groups."

When questioned on housing shortcomings pinpointed in the report, he said: "We are addressing the Decent Homes standard. We had previously been struggling to find a solution."

Deputy leader of the opposition Labour group, Cllr Theo Blackwell, criticised the validity of the report.

He called it an exercise in "box-ticking" and claimed the council was "focusing less on deeper services like youth service and help in deprived areas" and not looking at how to "serve communities to the utmost."

Submitted alongside the report was a Camden residents' survey which identified homelessness as a concern for residents, despite the Audit Commission citing significant advances in tackling it. Pollution and education are other major worries.

The children and young people's service was "outstanding", despite a number of privately fostered children being referred to social care.

The Audit Commission said the condition of the council's housing stock was poor. "The completion of the Decent Homes Standard still represents a significant challenge," the report said.

A further in-depth assessment of Camden's youth offending service (YOS) again highlighted good work by the council in working with young people at risk of offending.

The council's youth offending service was also praised for its one-to-one work rehabilitating young offenders.

Councillor Jon Bryant, Camden's executive member for children, said: "In this ambitious context the YOS has been successful in supporting some of the most

challenging and vulnerable children and young people in our community."

Of the boroughs neighbouring Camden, Barnet has scored worst in its four-year assessment with two 'two' scores out of a possible four in capacity and performance management.