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By Jon Hanlon ...
By Jon Hanlon

The Audit Commission has agreed to scrap the terms used to classify councils in the comprehensive performance assessment, but is refusing to consider levels of funding and deprivation when passing judgment.

Councils expressed dissatisfaction at the proposed terms 'high-performing, striving, coasting and failing'. These will now be replaced by either 'excellent, good, fair, weak and poor' or 'excellent, good, fair and poor'.

Quality will be measured on both current performance and proven capacity to improve.

The commission's director of inspection Paul Kirby outlined plans for the weighting of each service, which will form the basis for CPA ranking.

Single-tier councils rated under the CPA can only be excellent if they are fair or better in education, social services and finance. Levels of funding and deprivation will not form part of the assessment, he said.

Mr Kirby said: 'There is no relation between deprivation and performance. There are high performing councils in poor areas. The funding formula is weighted to deprivation. Areas with higher levels of deprivation get extra money. There are councils with a hell of a lot of deprivation achieving more with less money.'

The commission immediately faced criticism for the proposal to use the categories 'weak' and 'poor', which Local Government Information Unit director Dennis Reed said would be just as confusing as the previous suggestion to use the words 'coasting' and 'striving'.

He added: 'Using crude categories is

not helpful. No council can be branded in that way. The whole thing needs to be


Mr Reed expressed concern that corporate assessments are being carried out while consultation on the process is still ongoing. But Mr Kirby claimed responses to consultation on CPA showed councils are 'broadly happy' with the progress of CPA so far.

The commission will publish a consultation paper on how the services are weighted next week. For further details see LGCnet .

The CPA story so far

At a feedback session on the CPA pilots the government heard inspectors must be competent to inspire confidence in the process.

Councils stressed the judgments must not become an end in themselves. They must be linked to improvement, and freedoms must follow swiftly.

But it was too early for councils to say if they had confidence in final CPA ratings as the pilots have not yet progressed that far.

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