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COMMENT - EVERYONE SHOULD WIN AT SNAKES AND LADDERS

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The Audit Commission is looking at the comprehensive performance assessment framework with a view to altering weigh...
The Audit Commission is looking at the comprehensive performance assessment framework with a view to altering weightings where they are obviously causing skewed rankings in the league table.

The process shows the Audit Commission has listened to critics of CPA and is considering the responses, but nothing is etched in stone. Weightings for social services and education may be altered to give a truer reflection of councils' performances - but the formula for judging them will not be finalised until the end

of October.

The Audit Commission is keen to stress that when it does arrive at a decision it will be an independent one. In the end, the league table will show few surprises.

The commission also stresses that the league table is not an

end in itself but aims to help councils improve. It is designed

to spot not only those councils which are getting better, but

those whose performance has stayed stagnant or even slid. Director of inspection Paul Kirby used an analogy of snakes and ladders - some councils are climbing ladders, others are slipping down snakes: 'Our job

is to kill the snakes and build

the ladders.'

Controller Sir Andrew Foster said if councils wanted to improve this was the best way of helping them to do it - there was now a better supply of diagnostic evidence than there ever had

been before.

But it is imperative this evidence is used in the correct way. If the rankings are weighted too negatively, councils will not take the findings seriously and bad, ill-thought out judgments will destroy morale and careers. They could also have an effect on the number of councils which are granted freedoms and flexibilities - although the debate is still open as to whether it is the poorest performers which should get more freedoms to allow them to improve.

If, on the other hand, the Audit Commission not only listens to criticism but also acts on it, the outcome will be one which councils will respect. The Local Government Association may not get everything it asked for but it will have to admit the Audit Commission was more responsive than usual.

Adjusting ratings so they give a truer reflection of performance will help councils take the league table more seriously and accept the judgment on them, and therefore do something about improvement. This has to be the end result of CPA.

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