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A LABOUR councillor has criticised Bracknell Forest Borough Council for "failing" vulnerable people, according to the Government's new league tables, but the authority's Tory leader claims the scorecards do not give a true reflection.

The new Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) carried out by the Audit Commission, which was published last week, puts all local authorities into one of five categories — excellent, good, fair, weak or poor.

Bracknell Forest was judged as ‘fair' in the way it provides services to local people.

But the leader of the Labour group, Austin McCormack, has heavily criticised the council for what he says is weak provision of housing and social care for children and vulnerable adults.

Councillor McCormack said: "The Labour Government is putting more money than ever into public services, but under the current Tory leadership, Bracknell Forest is failing to provide what should be essential quality services for the vulnerable.

"Time and again we see report after report slamming the council's social care provision.

"Labour councillors again will be calling for immediate action.

"For a start in this coming budget, we want to see council funds shifted to social services and focused where it matters most."

Council leader Cllr Paul Bettison said: "We were very disappointed with the result and felt that the assessment only reflects how we were let down by our earlier service inspections and not the recent corporate inspections.

"A recent MORI poll showed that Bracknell Forest has one of the highest rates in customer satisfaction.

"Social services have also greatly improved and service quality has gone up.

"This was also shown by a recent social services

inspectorate for children and adults where Bracknell Forest was named as the fastest improving council in the country.

"We have a programme of improvements for areas of concern identified by the CPA and are revising strategies where these areas can be improved."

The Audit Commission told The Times that the council delivers a "mixed standard of services" but is making improvement in a number of areas.

The report states the council is taking a national lead in electronic government and the Smartcard for local people is seen as innovative.

Public satisfaction with services is good and education improvement is in line with national averages.

But social care for children and adults and housing services are weak and need to improve.

An Audit Commission spokesman said: "About 50 per cent of councils are good or excellent and 58 per cent of councils in the South East are good or excellent.

"So that puts Bracknell Forest within the 42 per cent which were rated as poor, weak or fair."

Steven Shuttleworth senior inspector at the Audit Commission, said: "Bracknell Forest has been rated as fair.

"What this means for local people is that the council is providing some good services but the weaker areas — social services and housing — are poor.

"Public transport is of great concern to local people. Our assessment shows this area as being weak so Bracknell Forest needs to set out a plan of action to tackle this crucial issue."

Education, libraries and leisure, benefits and use of resources were all rated as three out of four, while social care for children and adults, environment, and housing all scored two out of four.

Elsewhere in Berkshire, Reading and Wokingham councils were judged ‘good', West Berkshire and Slough were ‘fair' and Windsor and Maidenhead ranked as ‘poor'.


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