Newport council failing to boost centre and create jobs
10:20am Thursday 14th March 2013 in News
NEWPORT council is failing to reach many of its own targets, including improving the city centre and creating more job and business opportunities, a review has found.
The Wales Audit Office’s annual improvement report found although improvements had been made in some services, the authority’s performance overall had declined in the past three years.
It criticised the council’s slow progress in creating a vibrant city centre and for not bringing in more business and jobs. It said its self-evaluation was weak, and said councillors faced tough decisions if they were to make the required £27 million savings in the next five years.
The report said fewer people visited the city centre in 2011/12 - down more than 1 million from 10.1 million in 2009 to 8.9 million – although this was higher than the number the council expected.
It said that while the council had structures to support the delivery of regeneration in Newport, they were not robust enough to evaluate the benefits.
Despite helping more ten 48 new business start ups, safeguarded 256 jobs, and helped nearly 2,000 out-of-work young people it did not meet its own targets, including increasing the number of enterprises in the city to 3,825.
More people than expected joined its Going for Gold health and fitness programme, but there was an overall fall in the number of visits to the city’s sports facilities – which the council put down to the closure of two leisure centres.
The authority’s performance on waste disposal improved in 2011/12 but its progress overall is slower than other Welsh councils.
It has reduced the number of "looked after" children and those on the Child Protection Register but some of its care services for adults have failed to meet residents’ needs and keep them safe.
Disabled people in Newport having adaptations to their homes are facing the longest waiting times in Wales and the report says the authority faces significant challenges in this area whilst dealing with significant social services budget pressures and high sickness absence rates.
It said the council had a good track record of managing its budget but needs to make £27 million worth of savings, and the council has identified 12 million savings already.
Crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour was down in 2011/12, while visitors were up and partnerships including the Gwent Frailty Programme and the new Education Achievement Service are strong.
Results ‘disappointing’ but we’ll focus on improvement’ - leader Council leader Bob Bright said it was disappointing that performance overall has declined, but the council was committed to delivering a positive future for Newport.
He said: "We want to ensure that we deliver the best possible services for local people and, as well as continually monitoring performance, the board will concentrate on making real improvements in areas where standards are below what we would expect.
"The honest and open dialogue that we have with auditors will help us to continue making improvements and ensure that the key building blocks are in a place to deliver the administration's agenda.
"Improving services for our residents is at the heart of everything we do and is backed by a clear vision and strategy – we are committed to standing up for Newport."