AN independent audit of Caerphilly council painted a positive picture of how it has performed in the last year.

The annual improvement report, compiled by the Wales Audit Office praised various policies, including how it works with neighbouring authorities and has used money to train young apprentices.

A first intake of trainees started last October after it set aside nearly half a million pounds in its budget to provide opportunities for young people in the area. The money is being used to help 150 16 to 25-year-olds, with training in office-based, carpentry and electrician roles.

Among those who started on the scheme at the end of last year, was Ryan Price, 22, from Pontllanfraith, who is on a three-year full-time carpentry scheme.

Rhys Cartwright, 20, from Fleur-de-Lys, is also training as an electrician, with both men on around £1,000 a month.

The council's leader Allan Pritchard said focus has been on the fact Caerphilly is fourth in Wales for the number of people claiming Jobseekers' Allowance - in November 2011, the figure sat at 5,728 claimants.

He said the local authority has brought forward a number of capital projects in its budget, which it is hoped will bring construction and then long-term jobs to the area.

The council was also commended for its working with other authorities to provide more efficient services - such as developing a single social services management system with Blaenau Gwent council.

Deputy leader Colin Mann also pointed to the 21st Century School business plan, saying efficiency savings will mean money is available for work to start on a new Welsh medium school at St Ilan, Caerphilly, this Spring.