A comprehensive mess

Nothing better illustrates the silliness of the comprehensive
performance assessment than the cases of Hull and Coventry. The CPA
is supposed to tell local people how their council is performing by
rating it as excellent, good, fair, weak or poor. There are no
shades of grey, no mitigating circumstances, no caveats. Just a tag
which, for the 22 councils rated as weak and the 13 rated as poor,
acts as a millstone around their necks.

Hull is one of the 13 “poor” councils. So how will this help the
city’s population decide about the quality of their council’s
services? It certainly won’t help them decide about social
services, which received two stars when the star ratings were
announced only a month before, and if it helps them to take a
sensible view of housing, education, roads or any other council
service, it will be more by luck than judgement. By contrast,
Coventry social services’ poor performance in the star ratings has
been blamed for the lacklustre CPA for the council as a whole,
dragging down morale in the department still further.

These are just two examples, so it is hardly any wonder that Ealing
and Torbay Councils are seeking a judicial review of the CPA. Some
argue that the CPA enlivens local democracy but, if anything, it
seems much more likely to make even more people disengage from
democratic processes. It helps no one: neither the councils it
purports to assess, nor the people they serve.

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