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Bid for councils to control assessment

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The Local Government Association is weighing up a bid for the sector to seize control of its own performance data, as councils brace themselves for a potential string of bad-news stories on improvement.

With the government’s long-awaited Place Survey set to show large drops in residents’ satisfaction with their councils next month, the LGA is considering setting up a “data and information function” to allow councils to compare performance on a range of crucial measures.

Councils will soon have access to performance information from the nation indicator set, the comprehensive area assessment (CAA), the Place Survey as well as their own performance indicators.

Councils need to develop their own understanding of their customers’ and citizens’ views

Policy analyst Alison Miller

Concerns about the lack of data relating to the government’s 188 performance indicators and delays to the publication of the results of the Place Survey have previously been expressed (LGC, 9 Apr).

But according to a paper for an improvement board meeting: “of greater concern for the LGA group in the short term is what this new set of performance information, with a new focus on outcomes and a harder test of corporate performance, will suggest about the trend in council improvement.”

Initial scoping work has suggested a number of potential areas for LGA support. Small initiatives could involve knowledge sharing of research or data suppliers through an on-line “community of practice”.

Larger initiatives could include a local government-owned benchmarking system.

Policy analyst Alison Miller stressed the work was at a very early stage and that the LGA would be seeking input from councils to understand their performance management needs.

“Councils need to develop their own understanding of their customers’ and citizens’ views,” she said.

“There might be a need for expertise in that. What people have in their minds is some sort of data warehouse but we are certainly not at that point yet.”

Phil Coppard, chief executive of Barnsley MBC, welcomed the LGA’s work, saying there were big issues with the quality of performance data used by councils and government.

However he warned: “I wouldn’t want it to be a burden on councils or lead to extra cost because it duplicated work central government is already doing.”

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