Headlines: September 16th, 2009

Only one in ten local councils believes that the new Comprehensive Area Assessment system has cut the burden of regulation. The figure comes from the Local Government Association, which says a survey it has conducted has highlighted failings which raise doubts about the relevance of CAA.

Today’s figures show seventy per cent of councils which responded to the survey thought CAA was not being coordinated effectively between inspectorates and almost as big a proportion questioned whether it paid enough attention to outcomes. Councils supported the principles behind CAA but the LGA now wants the Government and the Audit Commission to take action to ensure the different inspectorates work more effectively together to bring about the promised reduction in the assessment burden.

In a response, the Audit Commission said it welcomed the councils’ feedback. Many conversations, it said, were taking place between inspectorates and council staffs across the country before the first assessment results were due to be produced in December.

The chair of the LGA’s Improvement Board, David Parsons, said: “Despite the considerable effort we are putting in to respond to endless requests for information it’s not clear that the inspectorates’ assessment of the area is going to tell us anything we don’t already know. In an era of financial constraint CAA is going to have to demonstrate its value for money – and at the moment we are not convinced.”

Steve Bundred, the chief executive of the Audit Commission, said: “We are engaged in a pioneering effort to join together the assessment of local services and value this feedback from both elected members and officers. CAA, he added, was a big step and teething troubles were inevitable in what he called ‘a pioneering effort’.