Headlines: April 16th, 2003

District councils are being asked for their views on the framework for reaching Comprehensive Performance Assessment scores. The Audit Commission is consulting the authorities following the announcement last month of details of the methods which will be used in district CPA inspections. At the same time the Local Government Association wants to know what they think as it raised doubts over the Commission’s proposals. The Commission has issued consultation documents and councils have until May 28th to respond. The LGA meanwhile wants to ensure that the proposed system does not act to “dampen down” councils’ scores.The Commission document, ‘Delivering CPA for Districts’, sets out how different pieces of evidence collected in the assessment inspections could be weighted to produce a final score. It is proposing the use of the same categories as in last year’s assessment of single tier and county councils – excellent, good, fair, weak and poor. Councils will be scored on ten themes: ambition, prioritisation, focus, capacity, performance management,   achievement on quality of service, achievement of improvement, investment,   learning and future plans.

‘Delivering CPA for Districts’ also proposes that half the weight in the overall judgment is split between ‘achievement in quality of service’ and ‘achievement of improvement’ with five per cent of the overall score split between the other themes, with the exception of ‘investment’ which would  get a 15% weighting. Under the proposals the minimum score an assessment can generate is 20 and the maximum 80 with a weighted score of less than 40 leading to a ‘poor’ rating and a score of 67 or more putting the council in the ‘excellent’ category.

District CPA Project Lead, David Curtis said, ” Feedback from councils was essential in refining the district CPA methodology, and now we are seeking their views on how that information is best used to produce a score.” Meanwhile, the proposals are being questioned by the Local Government Association which is seeking authorities’ views on the Audit Commission’s paper. Sir Jeremy Beecham, the LGA Chairman said the association had been working closely with the Commission to ensure the assessment framework works well, but it was concerned that the proposals as they stood could unfairly dampen down performance scores.

“We would question the fairness of the ‘rule’ in relation to benefit reports and are concerned that this will reduce the value of the CPA process for district councils. We are keen to hear the views of our district authority members so that we can respond to the Audit Commission very quickly, ” he said.