LATE last year a peer challenge team from the Local Government Association visited Test Valley to carry out an independent review of our performance.

This is the local government equivalent to Ofsted inspecting schools or the Care Quality Commission making sure our hospitals are up to scratch.

I am therefore absolutely delighted that their report, published recently, praised the council as being a well-led and effectively managed authority, with a strong track record of investments and service delivery.

There was further praise for our success in securing infrastructure and facilities for the benefit of the local community, such as the new Andover Leisure Centre and sports pavilions and community centres for our new neighbourhoods.

They also commented on our constructive working across political groups of which in an era of very divisive politics, I’m particularly proud.

I would like to thank my colleagues - of all parties and none - for the work they do day in and day out supporting our communities as well as my hardworking council officers, who go above and beyond to deliver services for local residents.

One of those key services is, of course, our housing responsibility. In recent months a number of people have contacted me concerned about rough sleepers in and around Andover town centre.

Let me reassure readers that we are actively working with these individuals to encourage them to come inside and accept our offers of housing and support.

Rough sleeping is a really complex issue and we work with a range of partners including the police, the county council’s drug and alcohol service and Two Saints, who help us to take our support onto the streets.

This initiative has achieved notable successes with a number of people now accepting accommodation and coming inside, and action plans being developed for others.

At the time of writing, those who have moved into accommodation remain indoors.

I have been clear that we will offer emergency accommodation to anyone who may otherwise sleep rough in our borough, and we have increased our investment in front line housing services by £100k over the past year to underline that promise.

Finally, some sad news.Last week I learnt of the passing of Alderman Rod Bailey, a previously long-standing Test Valley councillor, who served the residents of Andover for 28 years.

Despite our considerable age difference he regularly made time for a conversation and I’ll always be grateful for the times we spent at Councillors Surgery on a Saturday morning as he imparted his wisdom to me. Rest in peace, Rod. We’ll miss you.