Headlines: June 26th, 2003

Local councils believe the Audit Commission has listened to their views on its proposals for re- assessing England’s 150 largest authorities under the Comprehensive Performance Assessment system but they are still concerned that a key plank of the process will be flawed.The Local Government Association is raising the concern in its response to the Commission’s latest proposals. The LGA’s worry relates to the intention to raise the thresholds for points needed before councils can increase their ratings. Sir Jeremy Beecham, the LGA chair, said councils would have to reserve judgment on the details until they saw the Commission’s written proposals but it was important that the process was transparent.

He said the Commission had listened to some of the concerns of the LGA and its member authorities, particularly on the principle that councils should have the opportunity to demonstrate that they have improved, when they have improved, with the ability to request full corporate reassessments at a time appropriate to them. He also welcomed the efforts the Commission was making to consult and listen.

“However, we remain opposed to any moving of the goalposts over the points needed to achieve higher rankings. It is the equivalent of the football league telling the top teams in each division that they cannot be promoted until they have won more points – but after the season has finished,” he said.

The Commission has said responses from local government have been constructive and wide- ranging. It had considered all feedback carefully, and revised its approach as a result. Details of the final scheme include reducing the threshold for points needed on core service performance with councils able to increase their grade if they improve scores on education, children’s and adults’ social services, or two other service areas. Authorities which are rated ‘Poor’ will be able to have a corporate assessment carried out once the ODPM lead official and the council’s monitoring board are satisfied that progress has been made against a recovery plan and any council with the potential to move into the ‘Excellent’ category will get a proportionate corporate assessment to ensure they meet the high standards required of excellent councils.