Abstracts: October 20th, 2005

Following consultation the Audit Commission has devised a stiffer test for assessing the performance of the larger councils. The aim of the new test is to measure how well councils are delivering services for local people and communities, taking into account the Commission’s strategic approach to regulation and consequent reduction in the regulatory burden. The test is made up from a complex set of judgments on councils and the services that they provide and combined into one simply understood rating. The strength of CPA is that it looks at performance from various perspectives which provide a more complete picture and a better understanding of where to focus activities to secure improvement.Over the last three years, council services have improved significantly, and CPA is acknowledged to be one of the catalysts for this. CPA has also been a lever for reducing inspection and regulation in better performing councils and focusing support for others. The new test which raises the bar considerably, will be `more rigorous than in previous years.

Changes in the revised CPA include an emphasis on outcomes for local people and value for money. There will be a more stringent approach to the user focus which will include an explicit judgment on success in achieving user focus. The Commission wants to see that councils engage effectively with their service users and wider communities and that this engagement makes a difference in practice. Corporate assessments are being strengthened by considering the quality and robustness of councils’ own customer surveys, citizens’ panels and other consultation methods and if they are being used effectively to inform decisions.

The current system of categorizing councils will be replaced with a star rating system. The top rating will be four stars and the lowest zero stars. Councils will also be labeled for the direction in which they are traveling to indicate whether they are improving or declining.

The document does not cover CPA in relation to smaller district councils where discussion on changes is due to end on 30 November 2005.

The document is available at: http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/CPA/Downloads/Oct05CPATheHarderTest.pdf