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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