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When the Audit Commission ...
When the Audit Commission

claimed that almost half of councils were failing to provide value for money, not only did it lead to one of the most ferocious rows ever between the commission and local government leaders, it also obliterated the credit local government has gained from its efficiency savings.

Why did so many councils fail to make the grade on value for money? Is there an underlying problem with the way value for money was measured under comprehensive performance assessment? Or is it confirmation of what many in local government have long suspected - that the targets were too easy and the annual efficiency statements aren't worth the paper they're written on?

We look at the story behind the value for money debate and ask the three councils who have emerged with four stars how they achieved the top score.

Tim Stretton explores the connection between the new grant distribution system and a Kafkaesque torture

apparatus, while Ged Dale faces some tricky decisions about his pension.

We also talk to Ted Lush, director of finance and property services at Stockport MBC, one of the most popular and highly regarded treasurers in the country. Mr Lush talks about the challenges of capping, lousy settlements and the lessons he has learned after almost 40 years in finance.

It has now been four months since the collapse of the planned merger between the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. We speak to CIPFA chief executive Steve Freer about what the future now holds for the institute and his belief that rationalisation is still the way forward.

The rising cost of energy is one budget-ary pressure for which councils are largely unprepared. Street lighting costs alone rose by 75% last year. So what can councils do to limit the damage to their budgets?

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