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RISING TIDE OF INDICATORS TO PEAK IN TWO YEARS

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Districts and counties will have to publish around 40 performance indicators and single tier councils around 60 by ...
Districts and counties will have to publish around 40 performance indicators and single tier councils around 60 by the end of next year, the Audit Commission said this week.

Every council in England and Wales will be obliged to buy space in its local newspaper to publish the indicators between April and December next year.

Extra PIs, to measure environmental health, trading standards, street cleaning, highways and leisure and recreation services will be added to expanded tables due to be published in local papers by the end of 1995.

These additions mean that districts and counties will have to collect around 50 and metropolitan authorities approximately 80 PIs for local publication by December 1995.

The commission said it would publish the first comparative tables - from a total of 77 PIs collected in 1994 and 100 in 1995 - early in 1995 and 1996.

These comparative league tables will form part of Prime Minister John Major's attempt to drive up the standards of public services at no extra cost to the Exchequer.

Despite the planned increase in PIs in two years' time, Paul Vevers, the commission's senior manager in charge of the Citizen's Charter, said the numbers would not vary much thereafter.

'A message that came from the consultation was 'don't go tampering with last year's indicators unless something is wrong with them' '.

The final number of PIs is also far fewer than the 178 first proposed in 1992, partly because 'some of these proposals really were flying a kite', Mr Vevers said.

The figures can only be approximate because some upper tier councils oversee police, fire or waste on their own while others form joint authorities with other councils.

The government's police reforms could remove the service from council control but as long as the commission audits police forces they will continue to require PIs.

'We've consulted widely with consumers' groups and voluntary groups and the message we get from them is 'more indicators' and all the response from local authorities is 'keep the increase down'.

'There is some cynicism. We're busting a gut trying to persuade councils there is something in it for them because we believe there is.

'I think many authorities - I don't know if it'll be most - will seek to use this as an opportunity to communicate with their public', he said.

The commission has dropped proposed measures of the accuracy of housing benefit payments, staff sickness, the local need for housing and care in the community because of 'doubts about the practicability of gathering the information required'.

It has also excluded measures, such as housing need, which do not allow a common definition across the country.

Mr Vevers said councils have had particular difficulty in compiling PIs to measure responses to letters and phone calls from the public.

Scottish districts will have to publish around 35 and regions 50-60 performance indicators next year. The Accounts Commission for Scotland is due this week to approve additionalPIs to cover fire, trading standards and environmental health service. As in England, the enlarged table of PIs will have to be published locally.

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