Medway rated good at delivering balance of physical, social and economic improvements
Medway's £6 billion regeneration programme has been given a 'good' two-star rating by the Audit Commission - the Government's independent public spending watchdog. No local authority in England, claims Medway, has ever received a higher score.
The Commission says Medway has "promising prospects" for improving further.
Its 32-page assessment follows an intensive and comprehensive inspection of Medway's regeneration service in February 2009.
Leader of Medway Council Cllr Rodney Chambers, said: "This is another example of the 'Medway Model' successfully delivering regeneration in the Thames Gateway. It demonstrates that if you have local accountability, partnership working, democratic control and the support of residents and businesses you can bring about immense transformation.
"We are still only at the start of our ambitious regeneration plans. We are capitalising on the 2012 Olympics, becoming a centre for green technology, investing in our precious green spaces, ensuring we have adequate employment sites and encouraging inward investment."
The Audit Commission report concludes: "The council's work to regenerate the area is good with promising prospects for improvement. An ambitious agenda has been set to tackle the significant challenges the local area and its communities have faced following the closure of the Royal Naval dockyard and decline of manufacturing in the area. The council's approach with its partners effectively tackles the things which matter most to local people and focuses well on delivering a balance of social, physical and economic improvements."
It adds: "The council delivers good regeneration outcomes in a challenging funding environment from a relatively low spending base. Council tax is low and central government per capita grant is less in Medway than comparable councils. The council’s externally funded regeneration partnership, Medway Renaissance, works effectively with limited resources.
Their report praises the council's success in communicating Medway's ambitions and opportunities to business and potential investors but says there is scope for improvement in communicating the social and economic benefits of the 20-year regeneration programme to residents.
Other areas where the Commission identifies scope for improvement include involving local people in developing regeneration programmes, tackling health inequalities and promoting opportunities for skills development in deprived communities.
Neil Davies, Chief Executive of Medway Council, said: "This Audit Commission score marks a highpoint in a 25-year regeneration story that began before the council was formed.
"The key achievements are plain to see: Chatham Maritime, Rochester Riverside, Temple Waterfront, Medway's expanding universities and educational attainment, investment in Mid-Kent College, the major infrastructure improvements now underway in Chatham, Medway Innovation Centre, the Medway Park project and the success of the Reignite programme in putting people back into work and creating new life chances.