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Every council has published performance indicators about itself, but is this information being used to drive improv...
Every council has published performance indicators about itself, but is this information being used to drive improvement? A report out today aims to help councils make better use of their performance information to improve the services they deliver to local people.

Acting on Facts , a joint management paper from the Audit Commission and the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA), gives local authorities practical guidance on using performance indicators effectively.

Measuring performance helps councils to run and improve services. Councils have been publishing performance indicators (PIs) for nearly a decade, and some authorities have made good use of the information. But others have found it difficult to use PIs to drive improvement. In particular, they have often had trouble building performance information into day-to-day management, rather than simply complying with the requirement to collect and publish the indicators annually.

Acting on Facts recognises the difficulties that authorities can encounter and describes ways that these can be overcome. It highlights the importance of:

- developing a performance culture, where measuring what is done is a key part of every manager's 'day job'

- making sure that the indicators are balanced and focus on what the authority wishes to achieve

- setting targets to drive improvement

- producing the right information to the right person at the right time

- making sure that action is taken if it appears that targets may not be achieved - showing that the authority is indeed 'acting on facts'

Andrew Foster, controller of the Audit Commission, said:

'Every authority should be using performance information to improve its services. Being able to show solid evidence of improvement will be vital in the new Comprehensive Performance Assessment reporting. I hope that sharing the experience of authorities that have developed effective ways of measuring performance will help all councils. Using performance information well benefits not only local government, but local people who get better services as a result.'

Martin Horton, director of knowledge and learning, Improvement and Development Agency, said:

'If you don't measure performance you can't tell success from failure and consequently its difficult to prioritise your improvement efforts. The IDeA improvement programmes have shown that those authorities which have moved from just collecting and publishing performance information to using it to drive improvement have delivered better quality services. This guide provides practical advice for those authorities on that journey.'

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