Headlines: November 15th, 2007

Local councils in the areas worst hit by this summer’s floods have been given an assurance that they will not be unfairly openalised in performance ratings. Local Government Minister John Healey gave the guarantee in a statement of principles promising a common sense approach.

Mr. Healey said the Government and the relevant inspectorates would recognise the unusual strain placed on severely affected authorities and would apply the approach where there was clear evidence of a temporary dip in performance against a previously improving trend to ensure an authority was not treated unfairly.

He stressed the importance of the performance system but said this approach to assessing councils in flood areas would ensure they could focus on the work of recovery and were not over burdened by performance requirements. He said local authorities had been central to the response and recovery operations. The Government had provided up to 57 million pounds to support them so far and more financial help would follow.

“But we recognise that we can also provide support in other ways. It is important that national performance requirements on local authorities do not act as a barrier to the process of getting their systems and services back in place following the floods. Some councils have raised this concern with me so I am ensuring we take a common sense approach so we do not penalise authorities for temporary dips in performance resulting from the flooding,” he said.

Mr. Healey rejected suggestions, however, that he should change targets especially as a new performance framework and set of indicators was being introduced. He wanted councils to be absolutely clear on the need to maintain momentum on existing service improvement. “We want the process for agreeing flexibilities to be transparent and clear, as much for the benefit of those local authorities not affected by the flooding as those who have been,” he said.