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CPA: RULES FOR TOP PERFORMERS AND NEW LABELS PROPOSED

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Single-tier and county councils rated under the new Comprehensive Performance Assessment will get top marks only if...
Single-tier and county councils rated under the new Comprehensive Performance Assessment will get top marks only if they perform well in education, social services and finance, the Audit Commission proposed today.

The commission also made public two options on final labels used to describe streams of performance. CPA reports could assign councils a label within either a five-band or a four-band system - with former 'striving' and 'coasting' labels now rejected.

The decisions follow extensive consultation on the proposals contained in Delivering Comprehensive Performance Assessment. These included 132 written responses, comments from 800 conference attendees, feedback from the ten corporate assessment pathfinders and from councillors and officers on CPA reference groups.

Category labels

The category labels used to describe authority performance was one of the major issues raised. Many felt that the former four bands (high-performing, striving, coasting, failing) were ambiguous and would not properly reflect both existing performance together with improvement.

Responding to this, the commission has proposed either:

- five streams comprising excellent, good, fair, weak and poor, or

- a revised four stream system comprising excellent, good, fair and poor.

Performance would still be measured on two dimensions, giving a report on both current performance and proven capacity to improve. But the single overall judgement would combine these.

Assessment framework

The weighting given to different components within the CPA report was another of the major issues raised. Responding to this, the commission has proposed that:

- no council could rank 'excellent' on its overall performance, if its current performance on education, adults' or children's social services, or financial standing or stewardship was rated the equivalent of 'weak' or worse;

- no council could score 'fair' or 'good' on its overall performance if its current performance on education, adults' or children's social services, or financial standing or stewardship was rated the equivalent of 'poor'.

This reflects the importance of education and social services to local people, as well as the importance of good financial management.

A full paper outlining the commission's proposals and its responses to consultation to date, will be released next week with responses due back in early August.

Director of inspection Paul Kirby said: 'We are moving forward rapidly on CPA, and are exactly on track to deliver in line with original timescales. The positive response from local authorities and other stakeholders is largely to thank for the progress we have been able to make. It is imperative that CPA supports improving councils and gives local people a clear idea of where they stand - I believe the options we have set out, will do both.'

* See LGC story'CPA SCRAPS CLASSIFICATION TERMS'

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