What has been hugely constructive from the outset is the extent to which councils have rolled up their sleeves to help devise and refine CPA.
The concept of corporate assessment is non-negotiable. The local government white paper states there will be streamlined regulation and local reports.
How this works when the meat is put on the bones is, to a large degree, up to local government itself, and our initial sketches are being revised in response to feedback.
It became clear the approach to corporate assessment needed simplifying, so we have moved from a raft of questions to nine key themes - ambition, focus, prioritisation, capacity, performance management, achievement, learning, investment and future plans.
One of the hottest issues is how the different streams are labelled, and there is consensus that the four proposed categories - top, striving, coasting, failing - will change. Whatever descriptions are settled on must be two-dimensional, expressing both service quality and improvement. Such a radical change will need political support, but the government has indicated it is open-minded.
All 10 pathfinders have had a corporate assessment, and with them we are reviewing which areas of the process need tweaking. The roll-out to other single-tier councils is steaming ahead with the first tranche starting corporate assessments this month and the second already beginning self-assessment.
The deadlines are challenging, but it is essential we get it right. All our work is about ensuring the right ingredients are to hand when it comes to making the final product in the autumn.
This will combine the service judgments (Ofsted, Social Services Inspectorate, Best Value Inspection Service, housing, environment, leisure, culture), quality of life profiles, financial audit, performance indicators and corporate assessment results. The proportion of each will be critical and we are expecting a lively debate when consultation on these weightings starts this summer.
Audit Commission Inspection Service