Headlines: July 30th, 2009

The Audit Commission says elected councillors are basing important decisions on unreliable information. In a report today it says decision makers need the right information to help them make savings and that this is even more critical in the present recession.

The Commission’s report, ‘Is there something I should know?’ finds that councillors complain about receiving lengthy reports that do not contain the information they need. It says fewer than five in a hundred authorities have excellent quality data and almost two thirds of councils face problems in sharing data externally.

The report says councils are aware that with tough financial times ahead they need to act now to improve the quality of data. Ninety per cent of authorities believe good quality information is a top priority but eighty per cent say a lack of in-depth analysis is a major problem with analysts spending about twice as much time on routine reports as on value-added analysis.

The Commission also wants councillors to be more demanding in pressing for the information they need to make decisions.

Steve Bundred, Chief Executive of the Audit Commission, said: “Giving decision makers the information they need will help councils make savings while improving services. This is all the more critical in recessionary times and some solutions have little or no extra cost.”

Earlier reports from the Commission have shown councils failing to capitalise on the power of information. One said only 20 per cent of finance directors had all the necessary information to manage their councils’ estates properly.