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
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
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
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