The Audit Commission has been criticised for refusing to
consider levels of funding and deprivation when classifying
councils in the comprehensive performance assessment.
Despite initially saying the CPA grading must take deprivation
and funding levels into account, the commission’s new consultation
framework for single-tier and county councils makes it clear it is
not planning to do so.
Following research with reference groups and pathfinders, the
commission believes quality management can overcome these two
issues. Its research showed there was a weak correlation between
current performance and social deprivation and overall spending
levels when using the “more balanced” assessment used in the
The commission argues that the funding formula is already
weighted to take into account deprivation so that areas with high
levels of deprivation get more money.
However, Peter Rogers, chief executive of Westminster Council,
says there is a link between levels of deprivation and service
performance. “In individual authorities there are changes in
deprivation and changes in need. If funding levels increase in good
local authorities then performance could increase, and bad
authorities need the funding to make it happen,” said Rogers.
The CPA model will assess performance on both the quality of
current services and the council’s proven capacity to improve,
leading to an annual “report card”.
The commission has decided to scrap its controversial CPA
classification terms “high-performing”, “striving”, “coasting” and
“failing”, and replace them with either “excellent”, “good”,
“fair”, “weak” and “poor”, or “excellent”, “good”, “fair” and
The move comes after councils expressed dissatisfaction with the
original terms, but both new proposals failed to meet with the
approval of Dennis Reed, director of the Local Government
Information Unit. He said: “It’s a step in the right direction, but
broad, crude categories are the same no matter what they are
The consultation runs until 9 August. Submissions should be sent
Comprehensive Performance Assessment Framework for Single Tier
and County Councils is available at www.audit-commission.gov.uk