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Just over half of the largest councils in England are either good or excellent, according to a major new report fro...
Just over half of the largest councils in England are either good or excellent, according to a major new report from the Audit Commission.

Today sees the release of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment which has scored all 150 county, metropolitan, unitary and London councils as either excellent, good, fair, weak or poor. CPA was developed this year by the Audit Commission in partnership with local government, Ofsted, the Social Services Inspectorate, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate, and the government.

In addition to their overall score, councils have been scored from 1 to 4 in key service areas: education (based on Ofsted reports); adults' and children's social services (based on Social Services Inspectorate assessments); benefits (based on Benefit Fraud Inspectorate reports); and housing, resources, environment, leisure and libraries, based on Audit Commission and government data.

This is the first time that such a comprehensive picture of local authority performance has been compiled, giving people a clear idea of how their council compares to others. All authorities will use today's reports to help them decide how they will tackle their problems. Councils too will get a reduction in red tape - for example the commission's audit and inspection will be targeted at councils that most need it, and where it will produce results.

Results show that there are 22 excellent councils, 54 good, 39 fair, 22 weak and 13 poor. This means slightly more than half are in the good or excellent categories, and slightly under half are ranked as fair or worse.

Audit Commission chairman James Strachan said:

'This is the most detailed analysis of local government ever, and an exciting opportunity for all councils. The whole point of CPA is to create a powerful tool for improving public services. The results highlight the large number of excellent and good councils but there are still many weak and poor, struggling to improve. Now is the time for all councils - regardless of ranking - to focus intently on where they can do better. The commission will do all it can to help this improvement by focusing our attention only where it is necessary and most productive. This is strategically targeted regulation. CPA will help free councils from unnecessary bureaucracy and over-inspection.'

Councils generally did well in their corporate assessments which measure how they're delivering important local priorities such as regeneration. This also measures the council's ability to improve local services - which is a vital part of the score. More than half of councils (88 out of 150) scored well on this.

County councils have performed the best overall - 49 per cent are good and 23 per cent are excellent. London councils show extremes, with 24 per cent excellent and 12 per cent poor. Unitary councils are clustered in the good band, while metropolitan councils show an even spread with most ranked fair.

The results show that councils in even very deprived areas can be top performers. The North East has done particularly well with Gateshead, Sunderland and Hartlepool all rated as excellent. In other regions Kirklees in Yorkshire, Wigan in the North West and Camden in London, show that local deprivation is not a barrier to excellence.

There are some councils that have not reached the top of the rankings, but are making great strides in improvement from a low base. Liverpool, which scored fair, is one of these fast improvers. So too is Doncaster in South Yorkshire, Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands and Barking and Dagenham in London.

* Full reports for all councils are available here.

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