It must be really hard for readers of our local weblogs to know what to believe anymore, particularly when it comes to the subject of politics and the council.
You can be sure though that truth is invariably the first casualty of party politics and on one weblog, I read that Thanet is: "the most underperforming Council in Britain" and on others I see how badly we compare with others when assessed by the audit commission and the blame for this apparently lies with the Conservative administration.
It's odd then, that a new report from the Audit Commission shows that Thanet District Council is in the top 50 out of almost 400 in the country for the improvements it has made to its services.
The Annual Audit and Inspection Letter ranks the council as 43rd out of 388 authorities for the number of performance indicators that improved between 2006/07 and 2007/08. The report states: “The council continued to focus on improving outcomes for local communities, linked to its ambitions. Crime has fallen and more people feel safe walking after dark. Streets are cleaner, recycling has increased and public satisfaction is improving.”
Other areas singled out for praise include the opening of Thanet’s Gateway Plus, which “has led to reduced waiting time and increased library usage”, the speed of decision making on planning applications and the award of the Charter Mark standard for customer service. Measures to make Thanet safer that are highlighted in the report include the extension of CCTV to Margate and Newington and increased prosecution of graffiti taggers.
Less successful areas included the percentage of private sector homes vacant for six months, the amount of overpayments in housing benefit that were recovered and the collection of rent.
Cllr. Martin Wise, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, said: “This report shows Thanet’s continued improvement. The fact that we’re now amongst the top 50 councils for improving our services is a great result and thanks to the hard work of all our officers. The fact that we’ve focused on services that matter most to local people, such as waste and recycling, reducing crime, benefits and planning applications is clearly paying dividends. Our challenge now will be continuing that journey of improvement in a tougher financial climate, but residents can rest assured, we will continue to offer the best possible value for money in everything we do.”
It comes after the Audit Commission’s Use of Resources assessment rated money management and value for money at Thanet District Council as above average. This was compared to a year earlier, when the council was classed as performing adequately.
I happen to be a member of the Governance & Audit Committee and we have a meeting, this evening to discuss the council's performance management, a stirring tale of adventure to be sure. Any council can do better and Thanet is no exception, having it's weak spots that need to be addressed and improved. However, to peddle the story that we are "most underperforming Council in Britain" among other allegations, illustrates the charged political atmosphere that now exists, with county elections just around the corner and perhaps even a General Election not too far away.
Some Blogs, like newspapers. are perhaps best read for their entertainment value, much like studyin the pages of the Daily Star or Sunday Sport for incisive political analysis.