A commitment to delivering excellent services to local residents, all-year-around; whatever the weather, has led Stockton Council to be named 'Council of the Year' in a national competition.
Stockton Council was judged 'overall council of the year for service delivery 2010' by the APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) awards which took place on Thursday 9 September.
The North East authority was awarded the top accolade from a field of 300 entries from councils across the UK in recognition of its excellence in delivering front-line services to the borough's 190,000 residents 365 days a year.
The APSE awards are unique in the UK as they recognise council teams which excel in direct service delivery.
Councillor Ken Lupton, Leader of Stockton Borough Council, said: "This is a fantastic achievement and many congratulations go to all those staff involved in gaining such well-deserved recognition for the council's front-line work.
"It is undoubtedly a challenging time for local councils with some significant pressures ahead in relation to our budgets. So, to achieve this level of service, while at the same time making significant efficiencies, is testimony to the leadership of our chief executive Neil Schneider and all our staff's commitment, professionalism and energy in serving the people of our Borough."
Stockton was also the overall winner of the horticultural services category in recognition of the quality of work across the borough's parks, grounds and green areas.
And it was because Stockton was also short-listed in a further three categories: waste and recycling, transport and fleet services and Care for Your Area that we were judged to be the top-performing council overall.
On presenting Stockton's award APSE's chief executive Paul O'Brien, said: "Frontline public services are vital in our communities. Stockton has raised the bar in service delivery demonstrating a clear commitment to delivering excellence. The judges found the commitment, of both elected members and council staff, to providing Stockton-on-Tees residents with excellent public services was outstanding. They are to be congratulated on this remarkable achievement."
Neil Schneider, Chief Executive of Stockton Borough Council, said: "With the council already achieving the coveted Customer Service Excellence national standard across all our services, it has certainly been a good year for Stockton.
"This performance has been delivered against a backdrop of unprecedented financial challenges for local government, so is particularly significant for Stockton. Over the past three years we have achieved over £12m in budget reductions but this award shows that this has not come at the expense of our residents and the services they expect and enjoy from their council.
"However, we are not complacent and recognise there are very tough times ahead but the APSE award is certainly evidence that we are facing these challenges from a very strong position and with a focus firmly on protecting front-line services.
"And while it's always welcome to be recognised by our fellow council peers in this way what matters most is that our local residents, businesses and visitors are satisfied with the services we offer. That's why we also carry out regular resident, business and employee surveys and we would encourage anyone to contact us if they have any issues around our services."
The individual categories that Stockton was recognised for were:
Service Team of the year - waste and recycling: Over the harshest winter in over 30 years Stockton Council's waste and recycling collection crews collected all 160,000 wheeled bins, recycling boxes and bags on the scheduled day - a fantastic achievement reflecting the dedication and hard work of the collection crews.
Service Team of the year - transport and fleet service: Stockton Council has a fleet of around 500 vehicles and leads the way nationally in fleet management whether it be in relation to service quality and turnaround, driver training, procurement or the innovative use of environmentally friendly vehicles.
Service Team of the year - parks, grounds and horticultural services: Stockton Council's Horticultural Services Team has achieved unparalleled success. Stockton has won Northumbria in Bloom 'Best City' trophy every year since 2004 and has a won Britain in Bloom twice in the last three years picking up the Gold Medal award in 2009, the highest possible accolade from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Stockton was also nominated by the RHS to represent the United Kingdom in the 2010 Entente Florale competition.
Best Employee and Equality Initiative - Care For Your Area: Stockton Council's Care For Your Area's commitment in promoting personal training and development, health and well being for its 400 strong front line award winning team.