Audit Commission aims to cut red tape

    Independent watchdog the Audit Commission has set out ambitious
    plans to increase its effectiveness while reducing the burden of
    inspection and regulation on local authorities and NHS bodies.

    In a speech last week, Audit Commission controller Sir Andrew
    Foster acknowledged the frustration felt by public service
    managers, but said that improvements in public services were key to
    the “re-invigoration of trust between all those with a stake in
    public service”.

    The commission wanted to increase user involvement in services,
    improve joined-up working, extend partnerships between different
    regulators and inspectorates, and modernise its own management and
    governance, Foster told delegates at a Chartered Institute of
    Public Finance Accountants conference. In a consultation plan
    likely to be published in July, the commission will propose a range
    of cross-cutting studies and follow-up audit/inspection work in key
    areas like neighbourhood renewal, the development of care trusts
    and tackling alcohol and crime reduction.

    In addition, there were plans for “one-stop shop” regulation in
    the form of single managers for local audit and inspection teams,
    as well as single teams to carry out local Best Value work.

    The proposals aim to guarantee a seamless approach and reduce
    duplication and contradiction in the various forms of audit and
    inspection.

    Sir Andrew outlined the major challenges facing public services
    during Labour’s second term, including the need for a better
    relationship between central government and the local bodies
    responsible for delivering key services.

    Labour managed change from the centre during its first term, but
    now needed to shift emphasis towards local delivery.

    Speaking before the election he said: “It is vital for central
    government to hold its nerve, and fulfil the promise in the latter
    part of its last term and much of the election campaign, to give
    local services the freedoms and resources to deliver innovative
    services.”

    Furthermore, Foster said, public sector workers felt
    “undervalued” and “unrecognised” and government needed to win back
    the trust of frontline staff. There also needed to be an increased
    focus of services on users, as well as a more transparent
    relationship between spending and results, so the public could see
    improvements.

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