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LGA CONFERENCE DEBATES PERFORMANCE AND DEPRIVATION: PRESCOTT DEFENDS CPA

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By Varya Shaw ...
By Varya Shaw

Councils will not accept absolute judgments on their performance which ignore deprivation, the Local Government Association has agreed.

The decision, which conflicts with the Audit Commission's assertion there is no link between performance and deprivation, came during a debate on the comprehensive performance assessment at the association's annual general assembly in Bournemouth yesterday (see LGCnet).

The commission announced a fortnight ago deprivation would not be taken into account when passing judgments on councils' performance (LGC). But local government experts have repeatedly warned social and economic factors cannot be ignored.

Leo Madden, deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council, who moved the composite motion, said: 'While the Audit Commission states there is no significant correlation between deprivation and performance I quite frankly disagree. We suspect it's too difficult for the Audit Commission to quantify.'

A commission spokeswoman said deprivation was taken into account via the funding allocations. She added: 'It hasn't been ruled out. It's being looked at very closely.'

The association has agreed upon a further gamut of serious flaws in the CPA which must be rectified before it will be acceptable.

These include:

- Making the process fair and objective and seen to be

- Making it lead without delay to freedoms, flexibilities and light touch inspection

- Making it respect the basic democratic principle that members are accountable to the public, not assessors.

The entire concept of the CPA was repudiated by leading Tories. LGA Conservative group leader Gordon Keymer said: 'We have the crucial performance indicator, the electorate. We face it more often than the government does.

'The LGA must send a clear message to the government that we will not accept an ill-conceived, flawed inspection regime like the CPA being forced on us.'

Nick Skellett from Surrey CC warned the government had failed to deliver on things like crime and health: 'Now its using its administrative skill to come up with a quick fix for improving local government. The CPA is undermining the democratic process. The Audit Commission aspires to objectivity and independence but this aim is so difficult as to be unrealistic.'

Shepway DC leader Rory Love said: 'I don't see anything in the CPA that attracts new business or creates one new job.'

Sally Powell (Lab) said: 'I don't think Keymer is in a position to speak. Stressful? My chief executive actually enjoyed the experience. What Gordon Keymer is talking about is all rumour and hearsay, it's not actual experience. Remember CCT? Best value? Those of us who have used it properly have actually found it very beneficial. It's obvious to me that some people in this room think they can do it on their own. Well I'm sorry but I'm not afraid to admit we [in Hammersmith and Fulham] have found the process beneficial.'

In his speech today, deputy prime minister John Prescott said it was 'nonsense' that the CPA was anti-democratic. He said: 'There is a tension between democracy and good management. The quality of service provision can and should be measured.'

Dennis Reed, director of the Local Government Information Unit, warned the LGA motion 'shied away' from the real problem, the categorical judgments. The process was a constructive one but warned passing definitive judgements on councils would turn into a 'bad news story' for local government as a whole as good results were ignored and bad ones got all the publicity.

Director of inspection Paul Kirby said: 'As with any new system there is negative speculation but the feedback we're getting is that most councils that have been through this had a very positive experience. That came through clearly in yesterday's debate.'

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