The framework emphasises the importance of key services to local people, without unfairly penalising councils. And it is designed to ensure that excellent authorities are not encouraged to let any of their services drift by concentrating only on those important in CPA scoring.
The final framework has been reached after extensive consultation with local government and other stakeholders, including LGA, SOLACE, and central government.
The final rules include:
- No council will reach 'excellent' if any of its services are failing
- No council will score higher than 'weak' if it is failing in either education, social services, or financial standing
- No council will reach 'excellent' unless it scores better than one star in education, social services and financial standing
Following consultation and extensive analysis, the commission has:
- removed a 'double jeopardy' rule that penalised councils for a bad score in either children's or adult's social services
- given greater weight to education and social services
- increased the opportunities for councils to be scored as good in the CPA framework
- increased the recognition of changes councils have made to secure future improvement to services
The commission is currently consulting on its inspection and audit fees and is proposing a radical reduction for 'excellent' and 'good' authorities. Its work will be targeted to the particular circumstances of all councils, in line with its earlier commitment to local government.
Audit Commission controller Andrew Foster said: 'This is a robust mechanism that will tell people very clearly how their council is doing. We have consulted widely and where there is good cause, changed our approach. We have a new rule that means no council can let a service fail and still come out on top - yet there are more opportunities to reach a 'good' and 'excellent' score.
'The really critical thing is not the score, but what a council, inspectorates and the government do with it. This is all about improving public services for local people. The onus will be on councils to use this information to make their performance and the services they deliver better, and on the government and inspectorates to help this happen.'
The assessment framework is published in full on the Audit Commission
The government's white paper, Strong local leadership, quality public services published in December 2001, proposes extra rewards or interventions for councils based on the results of the Comprehensive Performance Assessments.