SYSTEMS to ensure that a police force is cost-effective and efficient have been endorsed by independent experts.

An annual audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers examined key aspects of Durham Constabulary's corporate framework, including its financial well-being, methods of compiling data and proposals under Best Value legislation.

If they had felt that there were significant failings, the assessors could have recommended closer inspection by the Audit Commission or the Home Secretary.

Instead, the force was given a clean bill of health in almost every field.

The assessors commented on the "development of good practice in undertaking partnerships" and the "good communication flows from chief officers and divisional officers to frontline officers", and praised the force's "prudent approach" to ensuring adequate pension reserves.

They also noted the force's success in tackling high-volume crime, such as house burglaries and car thefts, and said that in-house systems for noting offences indicated "high standards of recording."

The assessors suggested that performance indicators be published on the police authority's website to make them more accessible to the public.

Chief Constable Paul Garvin said: "This information is in many ways like an MoT test on many aspects of the force, to see if we have the right systems in place.

"It is good to know for the second year running the auditors have given us an unqualified seal of approval."