Headlines: November 6th, 2003

Rewards for councils that achieved an ‘excellent’ rating in the 2002 comprehensive performance assessment regime will be taken away from them if performance is not maintained. The 2003 performance assessment results will be announced next month and councils that move down the table from excellent to good will be given one year’s grace before losing the rewards of their success.The rewards currently take the form of freedom from nearly all inspection, exemption from the need to produce a raft of plans and flexibility in spending grant funds through a reduction in ring-fencing. Further freedoms are promised as new legislation becomes effective. The purpose of the freedoms and flexibilities is to give excellent councils an opportunity to be innovative and find new ways of delivering better public services.

Defending the decision to take away rewards Local Government Minister, Nick Raynsford said: “Where performance in ‘excellent’ councils falls significantly, it is only right that the Audit Commission recategorises them downwards in just the same way that a council achieving significant improvement should benefit from upwards recategorisation. Local people deserve clear information about the performance of their council and that means reflecting deterioration as well as improvement in performance in their services. To do any different would undermine the integrity of the comprehensive performance assessment system.”