Effective community leadership and top quality services, plus staff and councillors with a 'passion' for their work have not only helped St Edmundsbury Borough Council to be rated as 'excellent' by a national watchdog but has also put it top in the country.
A team of inspectors from the Audit Commission has taken a detailed look at everything the borough council does – called a Comprehensive Performance Assessment. Among other things, the team looked at the way the council works with partners (and what those partners think of it), the way services are delivered, efficiency, value for money, how it consults and acts on the results of those consultations, how it communicates with different groups, how it safeguards the local economy, investments, achievements, and performance management.
The end result was an overall rating of 'excellent', and a comment from the inspectors about the "commitment and passion" staff and councillors show for their work. The minimum number of points needed for a rating of excellent is 45, with the maximum being 60. St Edmundsbury scored 58, which is the highest in the country for district and borough councils.
Cllr John Griffiths, St Edmundsbury Borough Council Leader, said:
"I never doubted that we have become an excellent council, but to come out as the best in the country is wonderful news for the Council Tax payers and residents we serve because it means they can have confidence that their local council is doing a great job on their behalf. The inspectors say that St Edmundsbury's 'management and political leadership is very effective' and I can assure residents that we will not be resting on our laurels. "
Chief Executive Deborah Cadman, who was awarded the OBE for services to local government last year and is currently acting as the part-time interim Chief Executive of Waveney, added:
"I am so proud of everyone here, and all those partners and organisations we work with, because we would not have achieved this result without a tremendous amount of hard work from them all. The Audit Commission report mentions the 'passion' shown by staff and councillors and that's an incredibly unusual word for inspectors to use when talking about local government. But we do care passionately at St Edmundsbury about doing the very best we can for everyone in the borough. We know we will never be able to satisfy everyone, and we will always be able to improve, but, just for now, we are enjoying the moment. To be the best in the country is simply an amazing feeling."
The inspectors highlighted just one area for improvement, which is to 'develop a more systematic approach to equality and diversity', such as by making the best use of all available data to better understand local communities and reach specific groups.
The Audit Commission will flag up St Edmundsbury Borough Council on its website as having five areas of 'notable practice' (which means councils from across the country could be in touch to pick up some tips). These include:
longer-term planning (the council's Vision 2025 brought together a wide range of individuals and organisations to plan for the future);
DR-IVE (Dynamic Review – Innovation, Value, Enterprise) – efficiency savings scheme;
performance management systems and culture;
tackling sickness absence;
approach to alcohol and substance misuse.