HOUSING services provided by Mid Devon council were given a ‘zero’ rating by a government watchdog yesterday.

An independent report released by the Audit Commission said the service was ‘poor’ and had ‘uncertain prospects for improvement’.

On a scale from zero to three stars, the commission’s inspection team gave the service a zero-star rating.

Kieran Colgan, the commission's lead housing inspector for the South-West, said: “Since our last inspection in 2007 the council has not made sufficient progress in addressing the poor quality of its housing service.

“The council recognises this and has shown a new determination to improve. We expect the council now to move decisively to deliver on its promises.”

Kevin Finan, the council’s Director of Community Services, said: “The inspectors have recognised that we have a robust and comprehensive programme of service improvements with increased focus and determination.

“We recognise that there are aspects of the housing service that do not yet fully meet our tenants’ expectations but we are currently undertaking a £1million plus programme which will radically improve a great number of our services.

“This programme will lead to better services for tenants and therefore better value for money.

“We are giving the highest priority to turning the housing service round and giving full consideration to all points raised with us by the inspectors.”

Housing Portfolio Holder, Cllr Ray Stanley, said: “I am absolutely determined to see this service moving forward and am working closely with officers and tenants to bring this about.”

Copies of the report are available from Mid Devon council or from the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports AUDIT Commission inspectors found a number of weaknesses in the service including: • Services are not consistently delivered in a way to meet tenants’ needs.

• The quality of work, as part of planned maintenance programmes and when reletting empty homes, is often low.

• Performance in completing repairs quickly is weak.

• Estate management is also often poor.

• The service provides poor value for money. Costs are not consistent with the quality of the service.

The inspectors did, however, identify some strengths: • Access to services and information is generally satisfactory.

• Major adaptations and annual gas safety checks are broadly carried out promptly.

• Overall performance in rent collection is strong and a range of remedies are used to tackle anti-social behaviour.