Audit Commission’s judgement was wrong, High Court rules

    The Audit Commission was wrong to automatically downgrade a
    council because its social services department received a zero star
    rating from a separate inspectorate, a High Court judge ruled
    yesterday, writes Craig Kenny.

    In a landmark victory, Ealing Council successfully challenged
    the commission’s rule that any council given a zero star
    rating by the Commission for Social Care and Inspection had to be
    given a “weak” performance rating overall.

    Mr Justice Walker said the commission had failed to “apply
    its own mind” to Ealing’s performance, adding that the
    downgrading was “an automatic consequence of someone
    else’s decision”.

    However, proposed changes to the way the Audit Commission
    assesses council performance mean the case is unlikely to open the
    floodgates to a tide of similar actions.

    “The floodgates scenario need not come to pass if the positive
    reforms to the CPA system, announced through the Audit Commission
    recently, happens successfully,” said a spokesperson for the Local
    Government Information Unit.

    The High Court gave the Audit Commission leave to appeal the
    judgement; should it do so the case will be expedited as the
    commission is due to report to Parliament on council performance by
    the end of this month.

    “We are studying this judgement carefully and will respond
    when we have had time to consider the implications,” said an
    Audit Commission spokesperson.


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