Magazine article Public Finance

What's Going on in the World of Regulation and Inspection

Magazine article Public Finance

What's Going on in the World of Regulation and Inspection

Article excerpt

Ofsted

An independent review of the work of Ofsted must be held to address concerns about its independence and credibility following a number of ?media driven' revisions to its inspection ratings, councils have said.

The Local Government Association said an examination was needed after what it called ?dramatic U-turns on inspection judgments' in schools that had received adverse publicity.

Five schools involved in the Trojan Horse investigation in Birmingham were among cases where schools' ratings were downgraded by Ofsted from ?good' or ?outstanding' to ?inadequate', in under a year.

Such changes undermined confidence in the validity of all its inspections, said David Símmonds, chair of the LGA's children and young people board.

National Audit Office

The NHS is in. a financially unsustainable position following deterioration over the last two years, the National Audit Office has concluded.

Examining the sustainability of the health service, auditors found that, in June, hospital trusts forecast a net deficit for the current financial year of £404m, while foundation trusts projected a gap of £108m. These compare with initial financial forecasts from the trusts for deficits of £425m and £20m respectively.

In addition, 49 clinical commissioning groups had performed less well in 2013/14 than originally planned, including 12 which had forecast a surplus in fact ending the year in deficit.

The report also found the number of trusts in surplus is expected to fall again in 2014/15, after a decrease in their number from 222 ín 2012/13 to 182 in 2013/14. Additionally, more trusts are retying on in-year cash support from the Department of Health.

Meanwhile, the auditors said current government spending on flood risk management does not meet the maintenance needs of defences.

The NAO said half of the country's flood defences are being maintained to a ?minimal level' leading to increased future flood risk and more rapid deterioration of assets.

An extra £270m was made available by the government after the winter storms in 2013, including £35m for maintenance of flood defences in 2014/15 and 2015/16. But these extra funds only restored maintenance support to 2010/11 levels in cash terms. Without this extra money, total funding for flood defences decreased by 10% in real terms.

Difficult decisions about whether to continue maintaining defences in some areas need to be made, said NAO head Amyas Morse.

In a separate report, the NAO warned that central government and local authorities do not tackle underperformance in academies and maintained schools consistently.

About £382m is spent each year on school oversight and intervention, but the watchdog said that neither the Department for Education nor the Education Funding Agency know enough about school-level governance to identify risks. The DfE relies on local authorities to oversee governance arrangements in the maintained sector but does not know how well they do it

Morse said: ?There are significant gaps in the department's understanding of what works, and the information it has about some important aspects of school performance is limited.'

Audit Commission

English councils* fraud detection rate is the highest in 25 years, according to the Audit Commission.

The commission's final report on fraud before it is abolished next March, Protecting the public purse 2014: fighting fraud against local government, stated that in 2013/2014 fraud valued at £188m was detected by England's councils, up 10% since 1990. …

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