The Audit Commission plans to shift the focus of its Comprehensive Performance Assessment for local councils away from specific services and towards corporate governance and leadership. The second round of assessments, published last month, shows that councils are becoming more efficient and the Commission believes that changes in the assessment regime can make an impact on further improving local services.The new regime, which will be put in place from 2005, will continue to measure the services local councils provide to users, including social services, education, and environmental services such as road maintenance. But it will be broadened to put increased emphasis on the leadership role of councils and the way in which the wider needs of communities and individuals are met through joint working with other public sector providers, including the police, hospitals and voluntary organisations. The Commission describes this shift in emphasis as a move to strategic regulation.
Proposals include a revised corporate assessment shaped around councils’ achievements against their local community strategy. This will take into account the shared national priorities agreed between central and local government. There will also be an assessment of delivering cross-cutting local priorities involving the council’s partners in areas such as tackling crime and regeneration. In addition, there will be new appraisals for children and young people and for older people. It is expected that this focus on cross-cutting issues will force the pace of joined-up working.
The Local Government Association welcomed the proposals, but stressed that inspection processes must be more tailored to local issues facing each council. The Association also called for a unified approach by all inspection bodies to ensure that, where inspection is needed, it happens without interrupting the most important aspect of local authorities work – delivering services to their local communities.
Consultation on the proposals will end on 27 February 2004 and the new framework will be published in May 2004.