Headlines: November 14th, 2007

The Planning Advisory Service has launched an online tool to help authorities assess their own performance. It poses a series of questions, which can be tackled by individual staff members or teams. The system was piloted by 15 local authorities before its launch.

The new tool is based on the ‘ideal planning service’ benchmark developed by the Improvement and Development Agency for the PAS and allows planning services to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Sarah Richards, Head of Programme at the PAS, said the findings from this self-assessment would drive improvement around spatial planning and place shaping.

“The self-assessment process is likely to grow in importance for local authorities in their performance reviews, and it will be incorporated in our peer review process for these services,” she added.

The new tool will include a series of online narrative questions. These can be answered by individuals, teams or independent assessors but it focuses on the service as a whole and looks at planning as a continuous process, so its creators believe its best use is by teams. The areas assessed include political and managerial leadership and how well it links corporate aims to community engagement as well as assessing delivery with a focus on customers, performance and the management of resources.

When the questions have been completed the authority will be given a detailed report setting out its position in relation to an ideal service. The document will also give example answers, and suggestions for good practice and improvement as well as graphs showing how a particular service compares with other authorities so councils can learn from others in their region.