Headlines: March 18th, 2010

Council leaders have called for a dramatic reduction in the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on inspecting and assessing local authorities. The Local Government Association said the current cost of the new Comprehensive Area Assessment system is unsustainable.

The new regime replaced Comprehensive Performance Assessment in April last year and was heralded as being less of a burden on councils but focused on the priorities of a specific area. Now the LGA has analysed evidence from case studies in five authorities, which shows that for one council the cost of inspection had more than quadrupled. A second council’s bill had doubled and only one of the five had seen a significant reduction.

The LGA said the studies backed up the findings of its survey at the end of 2009 when almost two thirds of respondents disagreed that CAA had reduced the burden of inspection. The Association recently set out the ways it wanted the second year of CAA’s to be applied so that all requirements were met. Its priorities included a lighter touch for high-performing authorities, more focus by inspectors on encouraging improvement on issues identified in the first year, and more joining up of collective activity by inspectors.

David Parsons, Chairman of the Improvement Board at the LGA, said councils needed to be able to focus their resources on delivering front line services so inspection costs should be kept to a minimum. “Whatever researchers say about the performance of CAA, our own in depth analysis clearly shows the costs are climbing for at least some authorities, and that isn’t good enough,” Councillor Parsons said.