Blame culture threat to real progress
The momentum around sector led improvement is really beginning to gather pace. Councils are using the support the LGA offered and feedback has been very encouraging.
We have spoken to over 100 councils about their potential interest in our, no cost, corporate peer challenge with 20 already delivered and a further 60 booked in or in discussion. One Chief Executive told us:
“Perhaps the most important endorsement I can give the peer challenge is that it is nothing like CAA. We achieved as much as we have done through previous inspections but with about 10 per cent of the effort.”
So far over 290 councils and 1,300 registered users have started to use LG Inform, our no cost service providing a single point access to a wide range of financial and performance data. And over 190 councils have taken up our offer of subsidised development support for political leaders.
At the same time new approaches to sector led improvement have been developed in children’s services (through the Children’s Improvement Board) and in adult social care (through the Towards Excellence in Adult Social Care Board). I have been really encouraged to see that almost all councils have now published their first “Local Account” - reporting back to their communities about their performance in adult social care over the last year rather than to the inspectorates – that must be right!
But the key to success will be to secure a real and lasting change in culture, attitudes and behaviours.
For the Government it means “letting go” and trusting councils to deliver. I was disappointed to see DfE return to more hands on performance management through the introduction of scorecards around the timeliness of adoption – important though that is – and to see Michael Gove MP endorse their use as a tool for naming and shaming councils.
But lets be honest - this is equally as challenging for the sector. We have to rid ourselves of the spirit of competition sustained by previous assessment and inspection regimes and build instead a new spirit of openness and cooperation – acknowledging our need to improve and that we can learn much from each other.
So what is my verdict on sector led improvement? Collectively the sector has made good progress – but, as always, there is clearly more to be done!
Peter Fleming (Con), leader, Sevenoaks BC and chairman of the LGA Improvement Board