Headlines: October 3rd, 2002

Grave concerns over the way the government plans to tackle poor performance by councils have been expressed by the Local Government Information Unit which is questioning whether the strategy will even lead to improving servicesIn its response to a consultation paper from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, it says it does not believe the comprehensive performance assessment should be the main focus of dealing with poorly performing authorities.

The LGIU says it is disappointed, too, at the government’s continuing resistance to the idea of an appeals procedure. Inspectors, it says, have been known to make mistakes in their judgments and in some cases data used for background has been two years out of date.

The response says, ” The LGIU continues to have grave concerns about the overall CPA process, the speed with which it is being introduced, the crudeness of the categorisation and its efficacy in actually leading to better performing services.”

It says the consultation paper fails to take any account of the need to involve local people or even to consider their views which, it says, leaves concerns about inconsistency with local democratic accountability.

The unit calls for the emphasis on tackling poor performance to be on measures which will support sustainable improvement in the longer term rather than on ‘quick fix’ solutions.

“Given the implications that flow for local authorities from being placed in each category of performance, local government needs assurance that it will not be treated unfairly, ” the response document says.

It welcomes the fact that the government has allocated resources for creating capacity to tackle poor performance but raises a number of other questions including doubts over the availability of experts to sit on proposed partnership boards. It also strongly disagrees with the idea that part of the recovery process for failing authorities will be compulsory consultation on whether or not to have a directly elected mayor.

Overall it says, ” There seems to be no recognition of the impact on staff and member morale and on consequent recruitment and retention issues that the categorisation process will have.