Councils could be subject to unannounced inspections or probes triggered by dissatisfied users or partners.
Government proposals suggest moving away from the current system of scheduled inspections for authorities to focus on poor performers, help drive improvement and increase users’ clout.
They cover the remit of a new local services inspectorate, due to come into being in 2008, which will not have responsibility for assessing children’s services or adult social care.
But it will assume the Audit Commission’s current responsibilities, including inspecting housing and leading Supporting People inspections.
Under the proposals, the inspectorate will also take on a “gatekeeper” role for all council inspections.
This means other inspectorates, notably those covering children’s and adult services, would have to ask its permission to inspect or request information from councils.
Proposals from www.odpm.gov.uk/lg/consult.