Headlines: February 7th, 2008

The majority of councils are delivering high levels of services to local people, and most of them are getting even better, according to the results of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment published today. They show four out of five single tier and county councils achieving 3 or 4-star ratings and for the second year there are no authorities in the no-star category.

The Audit Commission, which is responsible for the Assessment, says not only are most councils achieving a high standard in the way they are run, most are improving their services, with three-quarters rated as improving well or strongly. Thirteen councils are rated as achieving the highest 4-star status and are also reported to be still improving strongly.

Two authorities have seen their overall assessment rising by 2 stars in the last year, Lambeth and Stoke-on-Trent, which was the lowest achieving council in the 2006 results, but which has risen from a single star to three. The Commission says three other councils show how councils can make the continuous improvements even when starting from a lowbase. Bedfordshire and Hackney, both now 3-star authorities, and Sefton, which is now 4-star, have all improved their rating in each year of ‘CPA – The Harder Test.’

Only two authorities, compared with five last year, are rated as having achieved only a single star. They are Rutland and Liverpool, which is rated as this year’s poorest performing council. The Commission’s report says improvement is not inevitable and 14 councils have fallen a category and 13 others are stuck on two stars for the third year in a row.

Michael O’Higgins, Chair of the Audit Commission, said the report was good news for most councils and taxpayers in England and the results showed the majority of them were in a strong position to take on the more demanding role that was now expected of them. “Where there are challenges we know the characteristics they need to copy from the highest performers: strong leadership, a skilled management team willing to take tough decisions and an ongoing focus on poorly performing services,” he said and added, “These characteristics are reflected in the improvements that Bedfordshire, Hackney, Lambeth, Sefton and Stoke-on-Trent have made. They provide a great example to those councils that seem stuck on two stars.”