Waveney District Council praised for better performance

WAVENEY District Council has been applauded for its 'exceptional efforts' in turning around its performance in a report by an independent watchdog.

Four years ago, the council was branded a 'failing authority' after a series of problems surrounding its financial management, and the resignation of its then-chief executive Glen Garrod, who admitted he did not have the skills to turn around its fortunes.

But in a report discussed this week, councillors were told that the Audit Commission has praised Waveney in its Annual Audit Letter; an assessment which judges the authority's financial performance and efforts to achieve value for money.

Following several years of financial uncertainty, the council has met every single one of the report's targets.

Council leader Mark Bee said he was delighted by the findings. He said: 'This fantastic report is the culmination of a huge amount of hard work from this administration and officers to turn round a failing council.

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'When I became leader, I knew that this would be a very long and very hard road. But thanks to our determination, faith in our abilities and really hard work, we have received our best ever report. This epitomises our continued efforts and will be the envy of many councils nationwide.'

The latest findings follow a series of damning reports by the Audit Commission on the state of the council, which at one point was ranked among the worst four authorities in the country.

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In March 2009, Waveney's problems were compounded when it was landed with a crippling benefits bill by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which ordered it to repay �8.9m in overpaid benefit subsidies.

But after hard work by officers, and negotiations with the DWP, the council was last summer that the final bill would not exceed �3.6m.

The Annual Audit Letter was discussed on Wednesday by the council's Audit and Risk Management Scrutiny Committee. Members were told that it praised the council for a number of achievements, including:

l Significantly improving how it manages its finances and governs its business.

l A significant improvement in its internal control.

l Significantly improving its value for money arrangements.

l Suitable arrangements to provide services that demonstrate value for money and deliver better outcomes for local people.

l Excellent evidence of engagement with the community on ethical issues.

Mr Bee said: 'This is the first time in five years that we have received an 'unqualified' value for money conclusion, which essentially means that the auditor is satisfied with the quality and sustainability of our financial position.

'Clearly we now face a tough period with difficult decisions to be taken on the basis of the greatly reduced annual settlement from government. However, we could not have done any more to better prepare this council for the challenges that lay ahead and this outstanding report is clear evidence, in black and white, that this is a better council and getting it right for the people of Waveney.'

l The meeting will be discussed by the full council on Wednesday.

l The full report can be read online at: www.waveney.gov.uk/agendas/2011/January/Audit/item10.pdf

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