Headlines: February 24th, 2010

Councils, the police and the health service as well as business and voluntary organisations need to learn from one another to improve their services and increase value for money. An independent review of Comprehensive Area Assessment, published today, calls for closer working but says across public services the picture is broadly one of improvement.

The report, from the six inspectorates responsible for assessing local public services in England, looks at the first year of the new assessments. It says the general pattern of improvement reflects CAA’s focus on local priorities and that there is wide variation in what different areas of England consider are pressing issues. The report also highlights the need for greater focus on achieving better value for money.

The CAA website www.direct.gov.uk/oneplace – launched at the end of last year – brings together independent, expert views of how well different areas are being served based on the inspectorates’ assessments. The idea is that people who pay for and use local public services can hold them to account but the information is also a way for service providers to learn from what works in other places.

Michael O’Higgins, the Chairman of the Audit Commission, said the site had made a lot of interesting information available for the first time and showed that much progress had been made but that stubborn problems persisted, including pockets of bad health, inadequate housing and inequality.”It highlights examples of really imaginative solutions to serious problems that other parts of the country should steal or adapt. It is encouraging that places like Camden and Sunderland are building on existing good practice by looking at what can be learnt from green flag examples from other areas. But it is frustrating that more are not learning from each other,” he said.