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CPA: PRESCOTT CHALLENGES ALL COUNCILS TO MEET STANDARD

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Deputy prime minister John Prescott today welcomed results showing...
Deputy prime minister John Prescott today welcomed results showing

that a wide range of councils are delivering high quality public

services to the communities they serve and challenged all councils to

reach the standards of the best.

Council performance is highlighted in the Comprehensive Performance

Assessment (CPA) - the first independent review of 150 English

councils and the quality of services they provide to local people (see LGCnet).

The CPA showed that half of all councils were categorised as either 'Excellent' or 'Good'.

Mr Prescott also set out how the government will use the CPA results

to further improve local services. The government will reduce red

tape and unnecessary controls for all councils and award new freedoms

and flexibilities to the best performers, including:

- Removal of all 'ring-fencing' that limits local discretion on the

use of money received from central government (other than money

which has to be passed to schools)

- No requirement to submit plans to central government

- A three-year holiday from most inspection activity

- Complete freedom over use of income from civil penalties

Mr Prescott commented:

'Our aim is to encourage thriving, inclusive and sustainable

communities right across the country. The standard of services

councils provide are central to achieving this aim. They have a

profound effect on the quality of life of the people who live and

work there.

'For the first time local people will be able to see how good as a

whole their council is at delivering everyday services, from

education, social care and housing to street cleaning, refuse

disposal and libraries, and compare its performance with other

councils.

'CPA shows them that on the whole local government is performing well

and there is much for councils to be proud of. They will also be able

to see just how well their councils are able to make further

improvements. The results send out a strong message that many

councils are meeting the challenge and are delivering against

demanding targets.

'But there are also wide variations in performance. We are determined

that all local people should rightly benefit from good local

services. There will be an immediate focus on the poor and weak

councils. We will work with those councils who are doing poorly to

address their weaknesses and take a radical look at the way they

currently provide some of their services.

'There is no room for complacency. Those councils doing well will

need to continue to innovate and improve. There is no scope to get by

in the middle. All councils need to draw on the lessons learned from

CPA to build on strengths and address weaknesses.

'We believe that CPA will lead to the continuous improvements in

services that local people expect and deserve. We will play our role

in encouraging these further improvements through replacing

unnecessary controls and regulation with a better-targeted approach

which recognises councils that are performing well, and supports

those that are under achieving.

'CPA is just the start. Today's results are the launch-pad for action

from central and local government together. Our overarching aim is to

secure the foundation for genuine and long-lasting improvement in all

council services.'

The government is also publishing today results showing how well each

local council has performed against 123 measures of services

delivered locally. These measures include the number of GCSE passes

achieved, the level of waste re-cycled and the amount of council tax

collected. The results are shown in performance information for

councils shown against Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPIs) for

2001/2002. Councils' performances against BVPIs are incorporated into

their overall CPA scores.

A full breakdown of freedoms by CPA category is included in Annex B.

NOTES

1. The Local Government White Paper - Strong Local Leadership -

Quality Public Services - set out a radical programme for improving

council services, enhancing local democracy and strengthening

community leadership.

2. Central to this programme is the new CPA framework. The CPA

provides clear and concise information about each council's

performance and places them into one of five categories. This will

help make the government's inspection process more risk based and

proportionate, to target support where it is most needed and identify

the small number of failing councils where action is needed.

3. On 12 December, the Audit Commission will set out the CPA results

and the categorisation of all unitary, county, metropolitan and

London councils. This will class them as either excellent, good,

fair, weak, or poor based on an assessment of the council's proven

capacity to improve and its performance in core services (education,

social services, housing, environment, libraries and leisure and

benefits).

4. Results show that there are 22 excellent councils, 54 good, 39

fair, 22 weak and 13 poor. This means half are in the good or

excellent categories, and half are ranked as fair or worse.

5. Comprehensive Performance Assessment are based on performance

information from a variety of sources including Best Value

Performance Indicators, inspection analysis from Ofsted, Social

Services Inspectorate, the Benefits Fraud Inspectorate and the Audit

Commission, as well as government plan assessments and audit

evaluation.

6. Excellent councils that are currently less than three star

performers on education will gain access to the full package of

flexibilities as they relate to education (ie on ring fencing of

education grants, education plans and inspection) on achieving three

star status.

7. Following consultation on tackling poor performance in local

government, the ODPM has agreed the broad approach to help support

failing councils. As a result of the CPA scores, lead officials will

be appointed and meetings will be arranged with regulators that will

provide a starting point opportunity for poor performing councils to

engage with the Government and begin the process of improvement.

8. In most cases, responsibility for drawing up and implementing a

recovery plans will remain with the council. The Government expects

councils to have drawn up their key recovery plans within about eight

weeks of the completion of initial assessment by the lead official.

9. A summary of responses to the consultation exercise on tackling

poor performance in local government are available on the ODPM

website.

10. Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPIs) are set by government

and seek to provide for a rounded view of performance. The BVPIs are

of two types. The Best Value Corporate Health indicators provide a

snapshot of how well the authority is performing overall. These

indicators are designed to reflect the underlying capacity and

performance of local authorities and others as both democratic or

locally accountable institutions and bodies responsible for managing

a significant share of public expenditure. The Best Value Service

Delivery indicators reflect the national interest in the delivery of

local services. These indicators are designed to enable comparisons

to be made between the performance of different authorities,

including different types of authorities, and within an authority

over time.

ANNEX A

CPA categories - characteristics and consequences

CPA classifies councils into 5 categories: excellent; good, fair,

weak and poor, on the basis of their performance on a set of core

services and an assessment of the council's corporate ability. This

paper includes a description of the characteristics of councils in

each category, drawn from the Audit Commission's document 'A picture

of performance' published on 4 December. The paper also summarises

the approach the government will take to each of the CPA outcomes.

The table at the end of the document summarises the package of

measures that councils in each CPA category can expect.

What 'excellent' means:

Excellent councils have shown that overall they deliver high quality

local services, especially in areas of national priority such as

education and social services. They have effective leadership and

management arrangements and are strong in maintaining their

performance. They are clear about their priorities, which are linked

to local needs and aspirations. Council finances are well managed and

directed to agreed priorities. Excellent councils are often better at

achieving more for their communities through the delivery of cross

cutting projects, often in partnership with others.

What the government's response will be:

The government is reducing administrative burdens and financial

restrictions for all councils, but for those categorised as excellent

we are proposing a set of more radical changes. We will remove all

ring fencing for capital and revenue funding (other than money that

has to be passed to schools). In addition central government plan

requirements will reduced to just two plans: the Best Value

Performance Plan and a Community Strategy. We will invite the

'Excellent' councils to participate in an 'Innovation Forum' to

identify and develop other freedoms. Co-ordinated and proportionate

inspection will mean that we will adopt a 'hands off' approach for

councils in this category with a 3 year 'inspection holiday', where

inspections will only be carried out where there is a statutory

requirement or there are grounds for serious concern. We will be

looking to the 'Excellent' councils to make the most of these

freedoms to extend the delivery of high quality services and identify

new ways of meeting the needs of local people. We will want the good

practice found in these councils to be shared as widely as possible

across the local government community.

What 'good' means:

Good councils tend to have strong services overall and know where

they need to make improvements. These councils provide effective

leadership and management. Good councils have high levels of ambition

and are mostly focused on what matters for their communities. To

become excellent, these councils need to strengthen their ability to

apply and manage resources where they are most needed and work more

closely with partners to achieve more for their communities.

What the government's response will be:

In addition to the freedoms extended to all councils we will remove

all capital ring fencing (excluding grants passed to schools). 'Good'

councils will have complete freedom over the use of income of

specified civil penalties, a 75% reduction in the number of plans,

exemption from reserve council tax capping powers and will be given

new trading powers. Councils in this category will receive a minimum

25% reduction on inspection activity targeted on individual

requirements. We will be looking for 'Good' councils to use these

freedoms to build their strengths and address weaknesses in securing

improvements corporately and on specific services.

What 'Fair' means:

Fair councils provide reasonable services overall but need to deliver

significant improvements to ensure that local people benefit from

more consistent and reliable delivery. For these councils, their

current performance is generally stronger than their ability to make

further improvements. To become good or excellent councils they need

to identify the things that really matter, focus on them, and manage

their performance more effectively. These councils need to make

better use of their resources particularly their staff and improve

their leadership skills and managerial impact.

What the government's response will be:

'Fair' councils need to deliver improvements, identifying the best

means of addressing capacity issues with inspection both supporting

and evaluating progress. They will see a 75% reduction in the number

of plans overall, more discretion in the use of income from specified

civil penalties and new trading powers. 'Fair' councils will benefit

from lighter touch inspection and audit, which will be targeted to

underpin their improvement planning based on CPA outcomes. The aim

will be to bring together available resources more cohesively around

particular aspects of performance in need of improvement as

identified through CPA. We will expect these councils to take

advantage of the capacity support available including national

capacity building and support programmes and those from individual

government departments targeted to specific needs.

What 'weak' means:

Weak councils tend to provide low standards of service for local

people and have limited ability to make them better. There are few

that currently have the ability to move quickly out of the weak

category. Weak councils may have one or more services that are

performing reasonably well, but do not spread this better performance

from one service to another. Their priorities are unclear, do not

reflect local aspirations and are not adequately tied to resources.

Developing their political and managerial ability to tackle their

problems is a top priority for weak councils.

What the government's response will be:

'Weak' councils should be planning for major improvement, programming

inspection and audit to help diagnose problems and targeting the

necessary support measures. We will expect these councils to fully

engage with the capacity support that central and local government

will provide. Councils should have ownership of improvement planning

and wherever possible the council should be given the opportunity to

tackle its own problems. The government will nevertheless seek to

engage directly with 'Weak' councils who have a limited capacity to

improve and provide appropriate support, or where necessary

intervention. They will be unlikely to see more inspection activity

than at present, but inspection will need to be focussed on

improvement planning and the weaknesses identified in CPA. We will

expect these councils to respond rapidly and effectively to the

outcome of CPA to secure genuine improvements to the standards of

services they offer.

What 'poor' means:

Poor councils offer inadequate services and do not have the

leadership and managerial capacity or focus to improve them.

Performance management is ineffective and resources are not used to

the best advantage of the council. Most poor councils are trying to

make improvements to services, but lack the focus and clear

priorities to do so effectively. Engagement with local people does

not translate into positive changes or better services for the

community. Without external support, the efforts that many poor

councils are making to improve services for their citizens are

unlikely to lead to lasting change.

What the government's response will be:

'Poor' authorities should be planning for major improvement,

programming inspection and audit to help diagnose problems and

targeting the necessary support measures. We will expect these

councils to fully engage with the capacity support that central and

local government will provide. Councils should have ownership of

improvement planning and wherever possible the council should be

given the opportunity to tackle its own problems. The government will

nevertheless seek to engage directly with poor performers and provide

appropriate support, or where necessary intervention. Audit and

inspection will be considered alongside the recovery planning process

which we are proposing for the poorest performers and those 'weak'

councils whose capacity to improve is limited. We will expect these

councils to respond rapidly and effectively to the outcome of CPA to

secure genuine improvements to the standards of services they offer.

ANNEX B - Freedoms and flexibilities by performance category

Excellent councils*

Revenue ring fencing

- Removal of all revenue ring fencing from 2003/2004 (excluding

grants which have to be passed to schools) giving councils more

control over their own spending. Excellent councils will also be

exempt from any new ring fencing arrangements.

Capital ring fencing

- Removal of all ring fencing for capital resources from 2003/2004

(excluding grants which have to be passed to schools). Excellent

councils will also be exempt from any new ring fencing

arrangements.

Plan requirements

- Removal of all current plan requirements placed directly on

councils from 2003/2004 onwards (other than land use development

plans and any plans required under European legislation) beyond the

Best Value Performance Plan and wider community strategy. Neither

of these plans will need to be submitted to Government.

Inspection

- A three-year inspection holiday from April 2003 which would include

most inspection activity.

Reserve capping

- Exemption from use of reserve council tax capping powers.

Civil penalties

- Complete freedom over use of income from civil penalties, such as

dog-fouling and littering penalties.

Trading powers

- Opportunity to take advantage of new powers in the Local Government

Bill enabling best value authorities to enter into trading

agreements or arrangements with any person for the provision of

goods, materials, staff, accommodation and services.

Innovation Forum

- The ODPM will be convening an 'Innovation Forum' to engage with

excellent authorities about the development of additional freedoms

and flexibilities.

* Excellent councils that are currently less than three star

performers on education will gain access to the full package of

flexibilities as they relate to education (ie. on ring fencing of

education grants, education plans and inspection) on achieving

three star status.

Good councils

Capital ring fencing

- Removal of all ring fencing for capital resources from 2003/2004

(excluding grants that have to be passed to schools). Good councils

will also be exempt from any new ring fencing arrangements.

Inspection

- Minimum reduction of 25 per cent in inspection from April 2003.

There is also the possibility of reducing inspection further as a

result of discussion following CPA scores.

Reserve capping

- Exemption from use of reserve council tax capping powers.

Civil penalties

- Complete freedom over use of income from civil penalties, such as

dog-fouling and littering penalties.

Trading powers

- Opportunity to take advantage of new powers in the Local Government

Bill enabling best value authorities to enter into trading

agreements or arrangements with any person for the provision of

goods, materials, staff, accommodation and services.

Fair councils

Inspection

- A likely reduction in inspection activity over the period 2003 -

2006 depending on the response of the council to their CPA

assessment.

Trading powers

- Opportunity to take advantage of new powers in the Local Government

Bill enabling best value authorities to enter into trading

agreements or arrangements with any person for the provision of

goods, materials, staff, accommodation and services.

Civil penalties

- Limited use of income from civil penalties, such as dog-fouling and

littering penalties.

All councils

Revenue ring fencing

- Reduction in the proportion of total government grant that is ring

fenced (excluding School Standards Grant) from 12.4 per cent in

2002/2003 to below 10per cent by 2005/2006 under current plans.

There will also be no ring fencing for grants below #10 million by

end 2004/5 (for other than time limited pilot projects) nor for

existing cross cutting grants by end 2005/2006. There will be a

general presumption against new ring fenced grants in respect of

cross cutting issues

Capital ring fencing

- Significant increases in the proportion of capital support

delivered through the single capital pot from 2003/2004. For

2003/2004, there will be a minimum of 60 per cent in capital

support routed through the single capital pot, with the aim of

reducing ring fencing further during the following years.

Plan requirements

- 75 per cent reduction in the number of plan requirements, with the

number of separate plan requirements reduced to a maximum of 16.

ODPM originally identified 66 plan requirements.

Charging for discretionary services

- Local Government Bill includes a power for all authorities to

charge for discretionary services, with a duty to ensure that the

income from charges does not exceed the costs of provision.

Civil penalties

- Wider use of income from civil penalties, such as dog-fouling and

littering penalties.

Council tax

- Discretion to change council tax discounts on second homes and long

term empty property and to introduce additional local discounts and

exemptions.

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