Headlines: July 28th, 2006


The Audit Commission has published a new assessment framework for the 47 fire and rescue authorities in England and a revised Comprehensive Performance Assessment system for England’s 150 single tier and county councils. It follows the announcement of a new framework for district councils.

Fire authorities will now be assessed on three elements and will be given a score for their use of resources, based on a range of financial issues including value for money. They will also get a direction of travel score, assessing whether performance is improving or getting worse, and a scored service assessment, looking at how effective the authority is in delivering services to local people and businesses.

For single tier and county councils the Commission is publishing “CPA – the Harder Test Framework for 2006”, which will be the fifth year of Comprehensive Assessment for them. The framework has been refined in line with recent consultations and the experience of councils and the Commission but it contains no major changes in overall approach. The Commission says the confirmed framework will provide a period of consolidation and stability and will be a more effective assessment, focusing support and attention where the risk is greatest. So that up-to-date user satisfaction data scores and analysis can be included, the next annual reporting the councils will be in February next year. For the first time a fire service assessment from the Department for Communities and Local Government, will be included in scores awarded to the 16 councils that have responsibility for fire and rescue services.

CPA for fire and rescue authorities was brought in last year when each was given a corporate assessment rating of either excellent, good, fair, weak or poor after inspectors looked at staff training, budget management and the way the service worked within the community to make it safer and prevent fires. The new elements will mean authorities get an overall assessment of services, including how well they are performing operationally.

Steve Bundred, Chief Executive of the Audit Commission said the new performance framework for FRAs built on the learning from its initial CPA of fire services last year and on intensive consultation with the sector. Operational assessments of service delivery will be carried out by teams from the DCLG who will look at fire prevention and emergency responses to fires, accidents, rescues, major incidents, terrorism and environmental threats. That information will be added to data from performance indicators covering the number and type of fires, injuries, deaths, false alarms and arson attacks to create an overall service assessment score ranging from 1,inadequate performance, to 4 for authorities that perform strongly.