HOUSING services in North Devon have been given the thumbs up following a recent inspection by the Audit Commission. North Devon Council's strategic housing service has been declared Good, with promising prospects for improvement" by the Government watc

HOUSING services in North Devon have been given the thumbs up following a recent inspection by the Audit Commission. North Devon Council's strategic housing service has been declared "Good, with promising prospects for improvement" by the Government watchdog, which inspects local councils to make sure they are providing good services that are value for money.The inspectors spent a week in February talking to council staff, councillors and partner agencies, as well as checking housing plans and policies. Their findings were published in a full report on Thursday.Kieran Colgan, the Audit Commission's lead housing inspector for the South West, said North Devon deserved "significant credit" for its "strong overall approach" to strategic housing services. "The council clearly shows that, with commitment, focus and leadership, small councils can deliver the high-quality service that local people demand and deserve," he said.The inspectors praised the council's understanding of local housing needs and its work to prevent homelessness, including its nationally recognised Rough Sleeper Strategy. They also commended the authority's success in drawing in additional funding and working in partnership to reduce costs and improve services. Other achievements include the delivery of new affordable housing, which has exceeded targets, and work to improve living conditions in private rented housing.Jeremy Mann, head of Environmental Health and Housing at North Devon Council, said: "North Devon Council is delighted with this result. It represents a lot of hard work and investment over a long time. "I hope this report reassures our community of our desire and ability to provide key high quality services for local people."The report singles out the portfolio holder Cllr Andrea Davis for special praise.It said: "The portfolio holder is an effective champion for the service and brings additional local and regional expertise through being an executive member of the council, a councillor of Devon County Council and the Exmoor National Park and through membership of many working groups that have a direct impact on this service." Cllr Davis said: "We are delighted that the Audit Commission places us in the 'Good' category. "We have been informed that there are only nine authorities in the country who enjoy this distinction out of 40 who have undergone inspection by the Audit Commission. "A great deal of credit must go to the staff of our planning directorate and housing officer who have enabled us to achieve this transformation in our service."We now intend to follow the guidance of the report to improve the service further."The Audit Commission also made a number of recommendations to help the service improve further such as setting challenging targets to reduce the number of empty homes in the district, and to cut the waiting times for home improvement and disabled adaptation assistance.To read a full copy of the inspection report go to www.northdevon.gov.uk/housing or www.audit-commission.gov.uk.reports