Headlines: June 28th, 2010

The Comprehensive Area Assessment regime, which assesses how well local public services are performing, has been abolished. It was administered by the Audit Commission. The CAA will be replaced by self assessment and by publishing performance data so that local people can form a judgement on how well public bodies are performing.

The abolition will limit the degree of Whitehall oversight, cut the costs in the Audit Commission by £10m and produce further savings in public bodies. Leicestershire councils, for example, had 90 full time staff collecting and processing more than 3,000 individual data items for central government at a cost of £3.7m a year.

Self evaluation will assess progress towards achieving local targets and will form the essential element of the performance management framework for councils and their partners working in local strategic partnerships.

Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles said: “In the face of the nation’s £156bn deficit, Central Government needs to stop the costly top-down monitoring that is engulfing councils and start trusting them to do what is right locally.” He called for greater transparency and openness to be the default setting for how councils do their business. They should publish all information on the quality of council services online so an army of armchair auditors can make sure services are meeting local needs. This will root out wild overspending, expensive mistakes and unnecessary waste, saving the public millions.

Councils are being encouraged to throw open their files and alongside spending information publish a wide range of data online in an open and standardised format. This will include information on senior salaries, names and job descriptions, councillor allowances and expenses; minutes and papers of council meetings and frontline service data, including rubbish and recycling collections, council tax collection rates and details of planning and licensing applications.

Inspection of public bodies by the Audit Commission, Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Prisons will continue. The statutory powers of the Inspectorates will not be affected, but their functions wil be performed with a lighter touch in a way that has yet to be defined. There will also be safeguards against things going wrong.