A PARTNERSHIP between Durham Constabulary and Darlington Borough Council has come in for praise from Government inspectors.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) described the recently formed Youth Offending and Community Safety Service (YOCCS) in Darlington as a "groundbreaking achievement" in its report on the police force.

Special mention went to the "synergy of combined effort" and said: "Key decisions have been able to be taken swiftly by empowered staff."

Also praised was Darlington's uniformed wardens scheme.

The HMIC said: "The standard of professionalism and the quality of the individuals recruited was impressive."

Talking about the national interest generated by the service, it said that it was "pleased to acknowledge a very promising initiative indeed, and was greatly impressed by the commitment application of all the staff".

Councillor Bill Dixon, cabinet member for social services, said: "We took a number of key decisions some time ago which are beginning to bear fruit.

"Forming the Youth and Community Safety Service was the first part of the partnership. The uniformed warden service is getting the praise it deserves as a product of the way we work together in Darlington."

The YOCCS was launched in March 2000 with nine staff, which has now grown to more than 50, including 11 uniformed wardens, whose service started two months later