Headlines: February 22nd, 2007

SATISFACTION WITH COUNCILS STILL IN DECLINE DESPITE IMPROVED PERFORMANCE

 

The performance of single tier and county councils is improving overall, but new figures from the Audit Commission show that many local people still remain to be convinced. For the first time since the Comprehensive Performance Assessment process began in 2002 no single tier or county council is in the bottom CPA category but levels of satisfaction with the authorities have fallen again.

The latest assessment results, published today, show 79 per cent of those authorities are in the top two star rating categories and, although some councils have fallen in the ratings, only one – Stoke-on-Trent – is judged not to be improving adequately.

North East Lincolnshire, which was the only council to get no stars a year ago, has climbed two categories. Two other authorities, Havering and Waltham Forest, have improved to the same extent, going from one to three stars and 77 per cent of councils are rated as improving strongly or well. In spite of the overall picture of improvement, however, seven councils moved down a star and five councils achieved only one star.

Particular improvements have been achieved in the authorities’ environmental services, with all of them achieving scores of at least 2 out of 4, and 84 per cent reaching the top two categories. Success in that area is reflected in recycling with councils’ performance and user satisfaction both showing an improvement. By contrast, performance in cultural services during 2006 declined compared with the year before. Only 56 per cent of the councils are rated in the top two categories compared with 68 per cent in 2005.

In spite of the improvements in performance overall satisfaction with single
tier and county councils is still falling, although not as fast as in the past. Sixty-one per cent of people were satisfied with their authorities in 2001, falling to 53 per cent in 2003-04 and it is now down to 51 per cent. Satisfaction with some aspects of councils’ work has improved but only one in five residents felt that the way their single tier or county council was running things had improved in the last three years.

The Chairman of the Audit Commission, Michael O’Higgins, said councils had again demonstrated a desire and an ability to deliver better services for local people and he added, “CPA has proved that it is possible for councils in all parts of the country, facing many different challenges, to make substantial improvements year on year. Implicit in this news is a clear challenge to the small number of councils at the lower end of the scale that they really must pull out all the stops to emulate the achievements of their peers.