A LOCAL council is one of the country's most efficient in dealing with planning issues, according to a report.

The Audit Commission's best value performance indicators for the 2001/2002 financial year show that Easington District Council's planning service is among the best.

The Audit Commission judges councils' performances in seven areas, including speed, cost and best practice, and Easington is well above average for all.

In some categories, it is in the country's top 25 per cent of authorities.

The council takes an average of 5.9 weeks to come to a decision on planning applications, 92.2 per cent of decisions on applications are made within eight weeks and the cost of services per taxpayer is £5.10.

Council leader Alan Napier said: "These figures show exactly what level of service this council wishes to provide for its customers.

"If you lived in an average district, you would have to wait twice as long to get a decision on your planning application and it would cost the council taxpayer twice as much to deliver the service.

Ian Forster, the council's head of planning and building control services, said: "Whilst planning can be a very controversial issue, our mission is to provide the best possible service at the best possible cost.

"The Audit Commission figures help to show how committed we are to this and how well we have done to achieve it."

The reception of the planning and building control service is being revamped to give customers better access.

And from April, the office will stay open until 7.30pm on Tuesdays on an experimental basis.