Headlines: November 9th, 1998

Five authorities – Blackburn with Darwen, Devon, Redcar and Cleveland, Sheffield and Mansfield – are to participate in a pilot project over the next month to test out how to improve services across the whole of local government.The aim of this Local Government Association project is to inform plans for how the new improvement and development agency will operate once launched next Spring. The IDA will be charged with securing real and continuous improvement in the performance of local authorities.

The assessment process being tested will benchmark the pilot councils against an ‘ideal’ authority and offer an action plan to secure improvements. Each will be visited for a week by a team comprising a chief executive, senior elected member and officer from other volunteer areas; a project team member and a representative from either the private or voluntary sector or an academic.

The idea for the future is local authority practitioners and others undertaking reviews of performance either in their own or another authority; it is therefore termed a ‘self assessment and peer review model’.

Options for the benchmark include how well the council provides leadership; how it engages with the community and how it manages performance.

Paul Vevers, of the Audit Commission, which is supporting the initiative, said: ‘It is welcome that this initiative is moving ahead quickly. Local authorities have major challenges ahead with the introduction of best value and new inspection and audit arrangements and will need help to respond.’