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Local Government: Inspections

Volume 492: debated on Tuesday 12 May 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for each local authority to be inspected under the new Comprehensive Area Assessment; and whether authorities with a good or excellent rating under the previous Comprehensive Performance Assessment regime will receive fewer inspections than others. (273669)

This is an operational matter for the Audit Commission and the other local public service inspectorates. I have asked the chief executive of the Audit Commission to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Steve Bundred, dated 12 May 2009:

Parliamentary Question on what the timetable is for each local authority to be inspected under the new Comprehensive Area Assessment; and whether authorities with a good or excellent rating under the previous Comprehensive Performance Assessment regime will receive fewer inspections than others.

Your Parliamentary Question on the approach to inspection under the new Comprehensive Area Assessment has been passed to me for reply.

Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) took effect from 1 April 2009 and the first set of joint inspectorate reports covering each of the 152 local areas with a Local Area Agreement and all local authorities will be published in late 2009. CAA represents a fundamentally different approach to promoting better results for local people and better value for public money.

The inspections of local authorities’ corporate arrangements (known as corporate assessments) used as part of the former Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) framework have ceased. CAA does not require routine programmes of such inspections. Instead, the inspectorates are drawing on existing evidence and the information local authorities and their partners already use to manage their businesses to inform the new area assessment. This focuses on outcomes for local people and therefore for the first time also holds the councils’ partners accountable for their contribution.

Such routine inspection of local authorities as remains relates primarily to specific services for vulnerable people where the inherent risk is high (e.g. Ofsted’s new approach to inspecting child protection arrangements and inspections of youth offending teams led by HMI Probations). Any other inspections involving local authorities will only be triggered where a specific risk or concern has been identified. The total cost of inspection work involving local authorities has reduced by a third from 2003/04 to 2008/09.

The Audit commission will play a new coordinating role for all remaining inspection involving local authorities to ensure that it is risk based and proportionate. Authorities previously assessed as good or excellent (or three or four stars) under CPA, and who are able to demonstrate continued high performance and a strong contribution to positive outcomes for their locality will continue to receive fewer inspections than others.

I trust this information is helpful.

A copy of this letter will be placed in Hansard.