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LGC - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Full steam ahead...
Full steam ahead

Like many, I had to smile at the stir caused over the leaked table of comprehensive performance assessment results and by the Audit Commission's response (LGC, 6 December). E-mailing chief executives chastising LGC for doing what good journalists do smacks of double-speak. The idea councils should contact the commission if LGC's actions caused 'difficulties' or 'needless anxieties' may seem a bit rich to those who spent many months trying to chart safe passage through the minefield of inspection,

plans, performance indicators and scoring regimes.

There are concerns about the impact, methodology and, in some cases, quality of CPA. Yet speaking out in recent months has felt to be akin to CPA-suicide. Perhaps, after the mines have gone off and we move into clearer water, we can talk more openly about what it feels like to be bobbing around in the cold, murky water of CPA.

For the record - Bexley has scored 4-4. But, in the new year we'll be taking a fresh look at what we can do better.

Chris Duffield

Chief executive, Bexley LBC

LGC stunt caused disarray

As the comprehensive performance assessment project manager for Birmingham City Council, I - with my colleagues - had invested a considerable amount of time and energy to develop a communications plan for the announcement of the CPA result.

As all our intelligence showed we would fall in the weak category, we planned to communicate this to all 50,000 council staff, trade union representatives, councillors, partners and local MPs - as well as giving press briefings for local media. The logistics of doing so between confirmation of results on 9 December and publication by the Audit Commission were complex. Our overriding objective was that people would hear the result from the council, not the media.

Your publicity stunt of breaking the embargo (LGC, 6 December) thwarted that objective, threw our plans into disarray and created huge disruption and inconvenience, which was no doubt repeated in councils across the country - especially in those whose results you managed to get wrong.

There must be thousands of council staff across the country who read your article and wondered why their council had not bothered to tell them the CPA result. Many will not have realised that the sole reason for this was that you broke the embargo.

If CPA had a category for integrity and LGC was being assessed then I would score you as poor.

John Outhwaite

CPA project manager, Birmingham City Council

Similar differences

Your comment Bed-blocking fines just recycle resources (LGC, 6 December) identifies many difficulties in the Community Care Bill shared by a range of organisations.

The 'widening line' between the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Local Government Association, however, is more nuance than substance.

Both believe aspects of this legislation need to be altered. Both believe, if it is to be introduced, it should be phased in, and properly piloted. Both agree that the problem is only solved by adopting an approach which deals equitably with all parts of the community care system, and does not arbitrarily single out one service for 'fining'. Both associations, along with voluntary and health sector colleagues,

are concerned that, by concentrating on only one part of a complicated care process, older people themselves might suffer from being labelled 'problems', while perverse incentives might unwittingly be built in to the ways in which we care for them.

If there is any difference between us it lies more in the nature of the opposition we will respectively display towards the bill. These are differences which are inherently appropriate for two associations, one representing local politicians from all parties, and the other representing senior managers and social care practitioners.

David Behan and Alison King (Con)

President, Association of Directors of Social Services and chair, LGA social affairs and health executive

High demand for homes

Stephen Burke may be pleased the Association of London Government and its 'partner' is continuing to work with hospitals to reduce delayed discharge and waiting lists (LGC, 6 December). It is a pity his own council is part of the problem.

Hammersmith & Fulham LBC is going to close Lakefield elderly people's home, even though it is recognised as being the best specialist home for people with dementia in London, if not the country. It is only 21 years old and in delightful surroundings on the edge of Wimbledon Common.

Lakefield can accommodate up to 30 people and is used for respite care. Despite considerable demand, there are only three residents as the home is wound up, which is a scandalous waste. The official reasons for closure are the difficulty in upgrading the home to meet national care standards, the location and the supposedly high costs of running it, none of which are valid.

The three residents are due to be moved to a new facility in Ealing LBC where Hammersmith & Fulham LBC has bought space. While any new establishment is welcome, there is sufficient demand in west London to keep both places open. Just ask Mr Burke.

Bert Schouwenburg

Regional organiser, GMB

Voluntary child help

The report by the Social Work Services Inspectorate in Scotland on children's services (LGC, 29 November) is welcome in emphasising the importance of joint efforts to ensure children are safe.

There are increasing numbers of children on the child protection register

for reasons of neglect. This is not always intentional on the part of their parents

but is often a result of their struggling

to cope.

Everyone in the community needs to be aware that children may be in distress even when the signs are not dramatic. They need to know what they can do.

Voluntary organisations working with children and their families on a day-to-day basis have a real contribution to make and - in the discussions that follow this report - we will seek to ensure they are more effectively included on local child protection committees.

Romy Langeland

Chief executive, Aberlour Child Care Trust

Time to take up

Far from suffering from insomnia, Dennis Roberts must have been half asleep not to notice the code of conduct for magistrates' courts staff was drafted by the Association of Justices' Chief Executives and not

the Employers' Organisation (LGC,

6 December).

Allison Wheeler

Principal negotiating officer, Employers' Organisation

Knowing Norfolk

The drive for local government to be taken seriously has been undermined by yet another own goal, this time in Norfolk.

Have councillors in Norfolk really got nothing better to do than criticise Alan Partridge's portrayal of life in their county?

Any company that based an investment decision on a television sitcom does not sound like the sort of firm any council should be seeking to attract as it is unlikely to last long.

Their efforts to present the city and county as progressive and innovative merely left the area sounding like an insular, insecure, humourless backwater.

Those who read or heard the councillors' comments would doubtless be scratching their heads in wonderment at the futility of the modern councillor's life.

The banality and fatuousness of the councillors' criticism of Mr Partridge's fine BBC show left one wondering whether they were not merely engaged in an ill-advised self-publicity drive.

It is high time Mr Partridge departed local radio to resume his rightful place

on national television. He is clearly too

big for one small part of the country which appears ill-suited to this most generous, tolerant and caring of spirits.

Tony Heaney

Woodford, Essex

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