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INSPECTION SERVICE GIVEN THUMBS-UP IN POLL OF AUTHORITIES

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Two years after its first council inspection, market research shows the Audit Commission's inspection work is rated...
Two years after its first council inspection, market research shows the Audit Commission's inspection work is rated positively by the vast majority of councils.

The commission employed Taylor Nelson Sofres to gather data on councils' experience of inspection on the ground, in order to evaluate its performance and drive improvement.

TNS contacted 100 authorities covering a range of region, council type and service inspected. Interviews were held with chief executives, lead officers, councillors, frontline staff and users. The project is ongoing, with further research to be carried out.

Results show:

80% of those interviewed, rated the inspection service as above average or excellent. Frontline staff were most positive (84%), followed by councillors (81%) chief executives (78%) and lead officers (77%).

There was some co-relation between the rating given, and perception of the inspection service: 85% of authorities receiving a 2-3 star rating, viewed the ACIS as above average to excellent, compared with 76% of councils that received a 0 - 1 star score.

Of authority types, Welsh councils were most likely to rate the ACIS as above average to excellent (85%) followed by mets (83%), district and unitary councils (both 80%) and counties (64%).

On the quality of inspection staff, 86% of those surveyed rated the AC inspectors as above average to excellent. Most positive were service users and frontline staff (both 91%), followed by lead officers (85%), chief executives (82%) and councillors (80%).

Importantly, 81% of those interviewed thought the service would improve as a result of the inspection and 74% said at least some of the recommendations would be implemented.

Director of inspection Paul Kirby said: 'As with any new regulation, there were some initial criticisms when the Audit Commission's inspection service launched. Two years on, it is very pleasing to see so many councils noting the benefits of inspection and responding positively to it. This is also a good endorsement for our staff, who have worked hard on developing our approach. Inspection will never be universally popular - but this shows even councils with negative judgements support the process. This is a very constructive foundation for the Comprehensive Performance Assessments, which will determine councils' future level of regulation.'

The commission began inspecting authorities in 2000, and to date has carried out around 1,800 inspections.

* see LGCnetfor 'CPA: RULES FOR TOP PERFORMERS AND NEW LABELS PROPOSED'

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