The annual Comprehensive Performance Assessment, the ‘balanced scorecard’ for local government, has now become the focus for improving council services. New guidance to help councils drive up the quality of local services, issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, makes it clear that the CPA process is now the mechanism that will drive improvement. Through the process councils will identify their strengths and weaknesses and plans will seek to build on strengths and counter weaknesses. The CPA plan will be the sole annual plan prepared by all councils and it is here that they will record priorities for improvement and achievements. The first results from the 2002 Comprehensive Performance Assessment of larger councils were published in December 2002. The remaining councils will be brought into the CPA this year.The effect of this guidance is to alter the character of the Best Value regime. It will continue to be the review process to identify what improvements are possible and how they might be delivered. The process will however be steered by the CPA results. The requirement for councils to secure continuous improvement in all their functions remains unchanged.
The new guidance also implements the recent agreement on contracting out services to the private sector with a Code of Practice on workforce matters in local government service contracts. The code will ensure that the provision of local services is not undermined by poor employment practices especially in respect of new joiners to contracted-out services. It emphasises that partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors should be selected where they will drive up service performance standards, not drive down staff terms and conditions.