HIGHWAYS and transportation services provided by Isle of Wight Council are fair and have promising prospects for improvement, according to a government finance watchdog.

An inspection team from the Audit Commission gave the service one-star following a damning report on the council's service last year when the service was judged to be "poor" with poor prospects for improvement.

The turnaround was welcomed by the council which said "significant improvements" had been made to the service since the last inspection in September 2001.

The council's executive spokesman for transport, Councillor Ernie Fox, said: "It is extremely gratifying that the huge effort put in by the whole Highways and Transport team with the support of councillors has led to such an impressive turnaround."

The latest inspection highlighted a number of strengths including a new council call centre that provides a better service to the public as well as the council's efforts to repair main routes to the ferries.

But the report said there were still weaknesses in the council's service including the poor condition of many of the Island's roads and the lack of a strategy for car parking and highway maintenance.

Recommendations for improvements to the service include developing a "service plan" and to ensure effective procurement of works by contractors.

Steven Shuttleworth, the commission's managing inspector for the Southern Region, said: "I am very pleased to see how well Isle of Wight Council has responded to the severe criticism made in our previous report.

"The council has made significant changes to the service, and local people are already beginning to see improvements to the Island's roads.

"Inevitably, many issues remain to be addressed. But the council has made a very good start on making things better for local people and for visitors."