Headlines: August 3rd, 2009

The public spending watchdog, the Audit Commission, has opened consultations on the way it assesses strategic housing services. It is proposing an updated key line of enquiry to give a broader view of how housing links to other local issues such as economic development and sustainability.

The Commission wants views on an enhanced emphasis on whether local authorities are driving a clear housing vision for their areas and tackling housing needs. The proposals also emphasise the important role of councillors in shaping what can be achieved in partnership. The Commission says the updated line of enquiry has been drawn up to reflect the new planning and housing strategic environment in which councils operate. It has also been designed to fit strategically with the Comprehensive Area Assessment framework.

The Audit Commission’s Director of Housing and Economic Development, Roy Irwin, said the strategic housing function was vital but was an area in which many councils had struggled. “We are launching a consultation on this draft key line of enquiry to seek the views of the housing sector on proposals aimed at giving a much broader picture,” he said.

The updated line of enquiry will assess how well local authorities work with partners and other stakeholders to meet current and future housing needs, and how they respond to specific challenges in their areas. All housing and tenure types in an area will be covered, as well as different types of housing market. Part of the consultation, which runs until September 18th, is seeking views on extending the use of this assessment tool from local authorities to sub-regional and other area-based partnerships.