Abstracts: December 2nd, 2004

In anticipation of the Audit Commission’s consultation on Comprehensive Performance Assessments for 2005 and Ofsted’s proposals for joint area reviews, the Local Government Association has published its own findings on the real impact and costs and benefits of inspection. Costs have grown from 250 million pounds in 1997 to around 550 million. Councils also estimate costs of £100million each year for simply meeting inspectors needs.The LGA is calling for action to be taken to half what is currently spent on inspecting local government and to create a more strategic inspection regime that will help deliver real improvement in local authorities. It argues that external inspections of local councils are too frequent and have costs which far outweigh their benefits. Research conducted by MORI on the impact of inspection revealed that most councils – even though they often dislike inspections – believe they can help them to improve. However, nine out of ten authorities also think they go through too many inspections, and two-thirds believe that the costs far outweigh the benefits.

Amid speculation that the government is planning to merge the current array of 13 inspectorates looking at local government into just four, the LGA warns that this action alone is not enough, the type, frequency and relevance of inspections must also be considered. The paper suggest actions to reform the current system and sets out challenges for itself, local government, regulators and central government to increase the effectiveness and reduce the burdens of inspection.

The paper is available from: