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Exclusive, by Assistant Editor Emma Parsons ...
Exclusive, by Assistant Editor Emma Parsons

The Audit Commission is combing through the comprehensive performance assessment framework ironing out anomalies which place councils in a league table position significantly out of kilter with expectations.

The Audit Commission says there will be no surprises in the league table when it is published in December.

LGC Council of the Year 2002 award winners Camden LBC and Blackburn with Darwen BC will be at the top of the table, along with north-east councils Middlesbrough Council and Gateshead Council, LGC has learned.

Others, such as some counties, will not have a place as high as they might expect, but broadly there 'will not be any surprises for councils about their results', according to director of inspection Paul Kirby.

Writing in LGC this week, Mr Kirby said: 'We will not apply rigid formulas that deliver skewed results. We are systematically working through the framework and adapting the rules which seem to deliver results out of kilter with the larger picture.'

The changes to weightings for different services do not affect many councils, and where they are affected they are generally moving into better categories, he added.

Councils will receive a draft judgment and all supporting data in mid-November. They will receive their finalised judgment on 9 December and all results will be made public on 12 December. A 'report card' detailing data for each council will be

made public on the Audit Commission's website.

The details of the assessment framework will not be finalised until the end of next month. Local Government Association head of strategy Matthew Warburton said: 'Our response made it clear that we think changes are needed to the assessment framework. But we cannot get away from the fact that CPA will not be a perfect reflection of local government in the first year because of the lack of evidence in some areas.'

Other issues highlighted by the 140 responses to the consultation included a preference for scores on two dimensions - performance now and prospects for improvement. The commission favours one 'rounded' judgment in which the prospects for improvement are reflected.

A decision has not yet been taken over whether there will be four or five bands for councils, and what they will be called.

Concerns were also raised about the way in which deprivation is taken into account.

The Audit Commission is keen to stress that the league table is not an end in itself but is a process intended to lead to improvements.

Controller Sir Andrew Foster said: 'We've wanted to get on to what is the purpose of this. Rather than us having a perspective of thinking this has been done too quickly, we have been happy to see it going that way.

'This is a process to somewhere rather than an end in itself.'


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