Magazine article Public Finance

English Councils Achieve Record Results in the CPA

Magazine article Public Finance

English Councils Achieve Record Results in the CPA

Article excerpt

Councils in England have achieved the best-ever Comprehensive Performance Assessment results, with four out of five given a three- or fourstar rating by inspectors.

The ratings for 2007, published by the Audit Commission on February 7, were welcomed by council chiefs and the local government minister.

Audit Commission chair Michael O'Higgins said: 'This is good news for most councils and taxpayers in England, with the majority of councils performing better than ever. The 2007 results show that councils continue to rise to the challenge of delivering better services for local people at better value for money;

He added that most councils were well placed to take on the more demanding role expected of them.

But against this picture of overall improvement were 13 stubborn non-movers who have been stuck with a two-star rating for the past three years.

A further 14 councils dropped a star, including Liverpool City Council, this year's lowest performer. It fell back from a two- to a one-star rating as a result of the poor financial management revealed in the commission's 'use of resources' rankings published last week. Along with Rutland County Council, Liverpool is the only council to be rated one-star. For the second year running there were no councils in the bottom zero-star category.

O'Higgins acknowledged that many services at Liverpool were good but said its financial position had deteriorated. 'There are implications for the long term. You can't deliver good services on a rocky financial platform,' he said.

Colin Hilton, chief executive of Liverpool City Council, said the council had performed 'well' or 'strongly' in five of the seven categories. 'It is disappointing that the rules of the Audit Commission's star system, in particular around the use of resources, should effectively label Liverpool as one of the worst performers in the country when that is clearly not the case,' he said.

'The council has put in place steps to develop more robust financial planning, but this has not been helped by historic problems such as a lack of reserves.'

But councils that had performed well were rejoicing Two of last year's weakest - the London Borough of Lambeth and Stoke-on-Trent City Council - leapt up two levels to three stars.

Lambeth leader Steve Reed said: 'Residents demanded change in 2006 and that is what this administration has delivered. Moving up from one star to three stars is evidence that we're now focusing on the things that matter most to residents, including quality services, value for money, and action on crime and climate change. …

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