The Comprehensive Area Assessment inspection regime should be replace by a more infrequent and lighter touch version other than for underperforming councils, a leading thinktank has claimed.
In a report published on Wednesday, the New Local Government Network urged ministers not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and to replace the CAA with a “risk-based weighted” approach that would offer intensive support to underperforming councils.
Under NLGN’s model, citizens would be able to petition the LGA if they feel that the quality of a specific local service is declining or is not up-to-standards and if the internal procedure of the council or service is not satisfactory. Citizens would also be given access to more transparent information on how council money is spent, as a means of strengthening local democracy, and be invited to act as “bare-foot” assessors of local services.
The thinktank envisages the Audit Commission focusing more on financial auditing functions and on being a gate-keeper for other inspectorates such as OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission. The local government family, led by the LGA, would take on a greater role in supporting underperforming councils and providing peer-led reviews.
“One of the lessons of CAA is that adversarial and external inspections can only take improvement so far,” report author Olivier Roth said. “For improvement to be real and lasting, it has to be embraced by the organisation attempting to improve. It is local government that possesses the experience, the skills and the mindset to identify possible improvements, and to find the right solutions to enable them.”