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DISTRICTS TO GET PEER REVIEW AND EXPANDED ROLES IN CPA SYSTEM

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The Audit Commission is drawing up a different framework for the ranking of district councils from that used for th...
The Audit Commission is drawing up a different framework for the ranking of district councils from that used for the top-tier councils in the comprehensive performance assessment.

Organisations like the Improvement & Development Agency will play a major role in corporate assessment, part of the process for district councils. The rest of the rating will be based on two main 'thematic' inspections, looking at the environment and housing.

A consultation paper is about to be launched on the assessment of the 230 district councils, the league table of which could take up to two years to complete.

Director of inspection Paul Kirby said: 'It will take longer to do than it did for upper-tier councils which felt more urgent.'

Peer reviews from organisations like the IDeA will replace the corporate governance inspections done for top-tier authorities. They will support the councils' own self assessment. Nine out of 10 district councils have never undergone a peer review.

The Audit Commission wants to focus on areas it believes district councils should take more responsibility for, such as the environment and housing.

Mr Kirby said: 'Mori surveys show people want a clean, green, safe environment. How does local government affect public spaces, deal with community safety and provide things for young people to do? It differs from place to place.

'Also, what are [a district council's] functions? Planning is the most contentious, with issues around housing. But there is no longer a national housing agenda. So people are dealing with oversupply of housing, in the north mainly, and in the south it's often the opposite.'

Acting executive director of the IDeA John O'Brien said: 'We're not going to be part of the CPA as such. The Audit Commission is thinking through the methodology for district councils. It's going to put a higher premium on self assessment and would like to see that challenged by peers and clearly the IDeA has a strong role. We're very happy to bring our experience and expertise. The important thing is that it remains the local authority's choice about whether they want to do this and when. '

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