HYNDBURN Council is celebrating moving up from being a “fair” council to an “excellent” one in the latest Audit Commission report.
The rating is the highest category of achievement awarded by the independent watchdog and places the council among the top 15 per cent local authorities in the UK.
It is the only district council in East Lancashire to have received this accolade following a thorough inspection, which found services are provided efficiently and to a high standard.
The report also comments on the strength of leaderhip of the council and commends it on its achievements in regenerating the borough and improving the quality of life for residents.
A clearly delighted council leader, Peter Britcliffe, said it was brilliant news.
He added: “To put it into perspective, we are only the second district council ever to jump straight from fair to excellent. For most councils a move up to 'good’ would be regarded as a brilliant achievement.
“I think that says a lot about the scale of improvement we have seen in the borough. The result is a real credit to the councillors and staff who have worked hard over the last few years to drive the organisation forward and to the new management team that we brought in following the last inspection back in 2004, which has changed the place beyond all recognition.
“There’s a real buzz about the place these days and a new culture that is focused 100 per cent on delivering good service and value for money.
“We have come a long way but we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We already have plans in place to take us forward over the next few years.”
Managing director David Welsby said: “Over the last few years we have taken a more businesslike approach to running the council and this is really paying off. We are now giving local people the high standards of service they deserve.
“Staff have responded well to all the changes we have introduced and a recent survey found that morale is up 33 per cent on where it was when I came into this job four years ago.”
Labour opposition leader Councillor Graham Jones said: “This is a fantastic result and I am pleased the inspection team acknowledged that it has been a team effort involving councillors from all parties working together with managers and staff.”
Audit Commission senior manager Tom Keena said: “Hyndburn Council has worked very hard to address financial weaknesses and to deliver its own and its partners’ ambitions. It can now demonstrate considerable achievements.”
But the council is criticised for the lack of a strategic approach to equality and diversity.