Ministers deny trying to interfere

The government has rejected claims that it interfered in the work
of the Audit Commission over how “excellent councils” should be
treated should their performance slip below the level required for
the top Comprehensive Performance Assessment rating.

Reports suggested that the government pressured the watchdog to
immediately re-categorise excellent councils as soon as standards
fall, rather than take a lighter approach based on warnings.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister denied putting pressure on
the commission, adding that as the government was a stakeholder in
the CPA process it was “legitimate” for it to be involved.

A spokesperson said the government felt the CPA needed to reflect
how councils were performing at any given time and if their
performance declined that should be “reflected in their

The Audit Commission said talks were continuing with the government
about what should happen to excellent councils. It believes they
should be re-categorised where services fall below the 2002
thresholds, but only if they can keep the freedoms and
flexibilities they have earned for a certain period.

Meanwhile, a separate report from the Audit Commission has revealed
that nearly 30 per cent of councils overspent their budgets in

– Stewardship and Governance from

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