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FEATURES - VIEW FROM THE TOP

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In the warm afterglow of an England win at Lansdowne Road, James Hehir reflects on district CPA ...
In the warm afterglow of an England win at Lansdowne Road, James Hehir reflects on district CPA

Spending a cultural and emotional weekend in Dublin provided the ideal opportunity to reflect on the comprehensive performance assessment methodology.

Ipswich BC was selected as one of the 10 pathfinders to test out the new district CPA methodology.

I then took part in a Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers review of a west Sussex council to test out modified proposals and feedback results to help frame the new guidance issued by the Audit Commission last week.

First, I should say that I believe the new CPA methodology is far better. I always believed in the CPA process as it provides a framework for assessing your council's political and managerial leadership in improving performance and delivery.

Self-assessment is the key issue and it is essential it is regularly tested and monitored. Personally I learned a lot from undertaking the review of another council, not least to discover how similar-looking councils can be so different.

I commend this work to other chief executives, but there is a sensitive issue for all who undertake these reviews - the suitability of a chief executive to perform the task.

The Audit Commission now recognises the difference between districts in respect of their culture, range of services, community leadership and political divergence.

At Ipswich BC our self-assessment showed we suffered from an overload of initiatives. Partly my fault, but also because we have excellent staff who are full of energy. Interestingly, the staff themselves decided we should put forward the case to be considered as a pathfinder. We have used the CPA process in a positive way to address a number of shortcomings in our delivery and have created a new post of assistant director, performance and delivery, reporting to myself and the directors team. The postholder also has responsibility for developing the scrutiny role even further.

We valued the ' critical friend' approach of the SOLACE peer review team and it is essential the team of three, as in our case, is well balanced, proactive and well supported. Our only disappointment is that we are still waiting for the result of our re-moderation from the Audit Commission.

We read in LGC that none of the 10 pathfinder councils were 'weak' or 'excellent' and that all of us were clustered in the middle three categories.

Not the way to announce it. Given our openness in taking part in this process surely we should have our score provided to us otherwise the whole system will fall into disrepair.

If the pathfinders are still waiting for their final scores I wonder whether there are sufficient resources to carry out the whole process.

Finally, the world does not stop during CPA. Ipswich BC is also an e-election pilot and we have been overwhelmed with the interest shown in registering

to use an electronic vote for the forthcoming elections in May 2003.

And England won the Grand Slam.

James hehir

Chief executive, Ipswich BC

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