Abstracts: March 1st, 2006

Phil Woolas, Minister for Local Government, in a speech to the LGA conference, outlined the framework for performance assessment when the Comprehensive Performance Assessment regime is replaced and double devolution from Whitehall to Town Hall and on to the community is introduced.The new performance framework will provide for a better balance of pressures and accountability from bottom up with service users and citizens and top down from central government. Double devolution requires that where customers can control the quality of services, they should do so. People should have clear expectations of delivery, and the means of challenge or change when they are not met. There will also need to be more peer accountability through local partners and the Local Strategic Partnerships. Both elements reduce the need for top-down pressures in the forms of targets, multiple information requests and inspection.

The second basic principle for the framework is to deregulate and remove any unnecessary burdens to create more space for local ownership of improvement, self-improvement and innovation. There is also a potential for a greater degree of self-regulation within local government.

There will continue to be a need for some national minimum standards in the interests of social justice, fairness and equity, such as the treatment, or mistreatment, of children. There will also be a need for the Audit Commission to continue inspections, but only as part of a world in which service users, partners and peers can effectively challenge and review services. To handle rare cases of failure there will be a process for rapid and decisive intervention. In order to help safeguard against failure, as well as to make progress with improvement, councils will need even more robust internal performance management processes supported by suitable challenge internally and from external auditors.

The speech is available at: http://www.odpm.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1163896