Councils that improve their performance in the second round of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment, due to be published in December, will get recognition from the Audit Commission, even though they do not move up to a higher category. The Commission recognizes that a ‘poor’ or ‘failing’ assessment is demoralizing for staff, but failure to acknowledge progress, even though it does not result in a higher rating, could have a devastating result on morale. Audit Commission relationship managers will report annually on the ‘direction of councils’ and the reports will be published at the same time as the performance assessments. The reports will also highlight weaknesses in councils that are not improving.This move by the Commission has resulted from consultation on the next steps for comprehensive performance assessment. Other decisions include maintaining the current CPA framework for 2003/4 and 2004/5 and adopting a more flexible approach that will allow movement between categories.Consultation will start shortly on the CPA arrangements for 2005/06 to 2009/10. There will be discussion forums involving local council members and officers to test out emerging proposals on the policy framework, information needs and the assessment framework. The Commission will put forward a programme for these forums and invite councils to volunteer to participate. One of the aims for the new arrangements will be to develop a framework that gives a more rounded judgement by bringing together performance on services with the ability of the council. This will need to recognize the influential role that local government has in its locality. Features to be incorporated in the revised framework include the impact of deprivation on outcomes, assessment of citizen/user experience, measuring cost effectiveness and value for money and addressing race equality and diversity issues.
The CPA arrangements will be further reviewed in 2010.