Magazine article Public Finance

From Red Tape to Green Flag

Magazine article Public Finance

From Red Tape to Green Flag

Article excerpt

Recent years saw the public sector in the grip of the regulators as rigid performance methodologies such as the Comprehensive Performance Assessment gathered momentum. Every year, the bar was raised, compelling councils to strive for improved performance.

Undoubtedly, the CPA and league tables provided a catalyst for improved services. However, the additional administrative overheads placed on councils were onerous: countless performance indicators to manage, auditors and inspectors to appease and weeks of planning invested ahead of on-site activity. Valuable resources would be swallowed up by lengthy assessments and inspections - hitting the target but missing the point.

Questions were being asked about the value of the CPA system long before the Local Government (and Public Improvement in Health) Act announced its successor. The introduction of the Comprehensive Area Assessment could provide an antidote to the 'regulation fatigue' councils are suffering. The multitude of performance indicators have been rationalised into one national set and upfront inspections will be replaced with risk-based versions.

In a move away from simply looking at the performance of each organisation, the CAA focuses on the combined efforts of local councils and partners in particular geographic areas. Moreover, emphasis has shifted from processes and procedures to the achievement of a set of agreed outcomes relevant to each area.

The two proposed components for the CAA are an area assessment and an organisational assessment. Whether these two halves add up to a cohesive whole from a resident's perspective remains to be seen but the idea behind them certainly seems to be helpful,

While the previous focus was on individual organisations, today the lines between these organisations are increasingly blurring. The people using services are more interested in getting the services they need than in who delivers them. They want their prospects for enjoying a good guality of life expressed in a language they relate to and understand. They also want the opportunity to influence outcomes if they so choose.

The area assessment supports this by focusing primarily on outcomes within the Local Area Agreement and considering how well local priorities meet the needs and wants of the community, how effectively the outcomes are being achieved and prospects for improvement.

Individual bodies will, of course, still need to be held to account for how they govern and manage their business, resource and finances. …

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