Performance management has improved the quality of services across many councils, according to a new report by the Audit Commission.Many variations in performance are also highlighted, and under the new test of best value, councils will be expected to reach the standards of the top performers within the next five years.
The new report, Local Authority Performance Indicators Compendium 1998/1999, suggests some councils will face a considerable challenge in achieving this but that councils can make significant improvements over time.
London and metropolitan councils have improved the most. For example, in the last two years the proportion of statements of special educational needs prepared within 18 weeks has increased by 19 per cent for the average council.
Similarly, councils which dispose of waste have doubled their recycling rate over the last four years.
The gap between the best and worst councils is narrowing on many services. For example, the difference between the highest council tax collection rate and the lowest has narrowed by 20 per cent in the last four years.
Big variations in performance between similar councils remain. Some councils process at least 90 per cent of planning applications within 8 weeks whilst others achieve 50 per cent or less.
Over the next five years councils the commission will work with councils to identify opportunities for improvement, learning from the success of the best, and will inform the public about how well councils are doing.