Birmingham's long slog to escape from the local government league of shame reaches a milestone today with Government inspectors praising city council services which are now consistently above minimum requirements.
The Audit Commission's annual Comprehensive Performance Review awarded the council three stars for the first time and highlighted significant improvements in social care for adults, children and young people.
The findings represent a dramatic change since 2004, when the council was classified as weak and social services and housing were deemed to be failing and came close to being taken over by the Government.
Even a year ago, Birmingham was ranked a two-star authority, performing only at minimum requirements, and the Audit Commission downgraded the council from performing well to performing adequately.
This time, the council has gained a star, is said to be improving well and is within striking distance of joining the best in the country with a four-star ranking.
The CPA report for Birmingham stated: "The extent of improvement compared to other councils is good and improvements have been achieved while maintaining a low council tax and exceeding efficiency savings targets.
"Areas where the council was previously under-performing, like worklessness, are being proactively addressed. The council makes a positive contribution to wider community outcomes and the crime rate has dropped significantly.
"The council is tailoring services closely to individual need, and services are undergoing full review to improve customer service. Performance management is improving and this is leading to better services for the people of Birmingham.
"Resources are stretched in some areas but action is being taken to meet future challenges. Value for money continues to improve and the council has good capacity and plans with its partners to make future improvements."
Leaders of the council's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition were quick to embrace the Audit Commission findings, while seizing the opportunity to bitterly criticise their Labour predecessors.
Council leader Mike Whitby said the local authority had been gripped by a "culture of mediocrity" when the coalition took over.
"We inherited a weak and under-performing authority, but we were determined to reverse the decline in city council services.
"We were in a position where a Labour Government was going to take social services and housing out of the jurisdiction of a local authority that had been run by the Labour Party for more than 20 years," Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) added.
The appointment of a new senior management team alongside "private sector methods" had helped transform the council, which ought to be run as if it were as a FTSE 100 company, Coun Whitby added.
An additional £103 million over and above inflation requirements has been ploughed into social care since 2004, along with huge investment in improving council housing. Four years ago public satisfaction with housing services was at 36 per cent; today it is 91 per cent, according to market research.
Despite the investment, housing services remain ranked as two-star by the Audit Commission, alongside environmental and cultural services. The council will be unable to progress to four stars until its housing services are judged to be performing strongly.
Stephen Hughes, the council chief executive, said: "Clearly there is still some way to go. We have got to press on and continue to improve services, but this is a solid endorsement of the progress we have made to date.
"You cannot underestimate the dire state that our two key services were in four years ago. They were on the verge of being taken over by the Government and we have now got them to a state where they are improving."