Solihull Council will come under greater scrutiny over the quality of its adult social care after it was rated as “adequate” by the Care Quality Commission.

The Government will also offer practical support to the local authority, which is one of eight councils ordered to make improvements a priority, by the body.

Adult social services in Birmingham received its best-ever ranking from the government inspectors.

The city council department was rated ‘level three performing well’ by the Care Quality Commission.

The rating is one step away from excellence, the top mark, and represents a remarkable turnaround for a department that in 2003 performed so badly that it stood on the verge of being removed from council control to be run by Whitehall.

The assessment will be seen as a vote of confidence in radical changes to social care that have included closing 29 old people’s homes and replacing them with purpose-built care centres. The council-run meals on wheels service is being phased out by alternative private sector provision.

The Care Quality Commission inspectors praised the council’s “strong officer and political leadership” which was working to deliver a major programme of transformation of services.

But the CQC said a third of councils have more to do in terms of caring for people with dignity and respect and one in four were rated as only adequate in terms of giving people choice and control over their care.

Too many councils were purchasing a significant proportion of residential and nursing home care from providers rated as poor or adequate and, in care homes for older people, one in five providers failed to meet the standard on social contact and activities, the CQC said.

A total of 16 councils, which have not been named to avoid giving them advance warning, were also selected for “in-depth service inspection on the basis of concerns about performance, gaps in its evidence or the length of time since the last service inspection”, the CQC said.

The CQC also looked at the performance of 24,000 care homes, home care agencies, nursing agencies and shared lives schemes and found one in six providers were only poor or adequate.

Cynthia Bower, CQC chief executive, said she was “deeply concerned about the potential impact of lower spending on social care” during tough economic times.

But the CQC said it was “encouraged” to see that councils’ eligibility thresholds for access to care services remained largely unchanged since last year, despite the number of councils providing care to people with “moderate” or “low” needs falling from 60 to only 42 over the previous two years.

Ms Bower said: “We all know there are choppy waters ahead, so the issue is how well the system responds to the situation.”

She added it was “striking” that many of the issues of most concern to the public, such as dignity, were not necessarily things that cost a lot of money to put right.

“There is clearly room to continue improving services, despite the tough economic backdrop,” she said.

“There is no excuse for taking the foot off the gas.”