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Local Authority Performance

Volume 569: debated on Monday 21 October 2013

20. What representations he has received on the effectiveness of independent assessments of the performance of local authorities. (900569)

My hon. Friend may well know that we have reduced burdensome top-down assessments of the performance of local authorities. We have abolished the unnecessary and invasive comprehensive area assessment, and strengthened local accountability through transparency measures, making councils accountable to the local people who elect them. The recent BBC ICM poll suggests that residents are currently happy with council services.

Councils across the country have reason to be grateful to the Secretary of State for getting rid of the costly and bureaucratic comprehensive area assessments, and for replacing them with an optional system of councils inviting local government leaders to conduct a review. In that regard, has the Minister seen the very positive outcome for Conservative-controlled Rugby borough council? Its report was overwhelmingly positive and the leader was described as providing a

“strong and progressive focal point”.

Getting rid of comprehensive area assessments has saved the public purse around £28 million a year. On top of that, work going on now means that there is a constructive, involved approach from the sector—opening up and looking more sensibly at what works—rather than a tick-box culture. I am delighted that such a good Conservative authority is showing so highly in the process.

The Minister will be aware that the Local Government Association has independently assessed that Tory-led West Somerset council will not be financially viable in future. How many more local authorities does he believe will not be financially viable in future as a result of his Government’s cut to local services?

The hon. Gentleman gives a good example of where the sector and the LGA are working closely with the council to help it to work its way through shared management, particularly shared senior management, and shared services, which will bring the kind of savings needed—it is a small district council serving just 35,000 residents—and take things forward in a prudent and sensible way. That is the sector helping itself rather than the old tick-box culture that cost everybody so much.