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Councils need performance management buy-in

Report recommends private sector input

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Performance management in local authorities needs more buy-in from across the organisation, concludes a new report from the National Computing Centre.

The NCC report, Performance Management in Local Authorities, looks at the way central government uses its key indicators by which to measure the performance of local authorities, of which IT is one enabler.

The report says councils would benefit substantially from private sector input into how performance management can be used effectively. In line with this it calls for wider input and communications between central and local government, so the imminent changes from comprehensive performance assessments (CPAs) to comprehensive area assessments (CAAs) are fully understood.

In October 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a white paper which set out a new regime of CAAs for monitoring, supporting, assessment, and intervention. From April 2009 the CAA approach will provide:

  • A reduced total number of indicators from around 1,500 to just 200
  • More outcome based indicators that are meaningful to citizens holding their local service providers to account
  • Annual assessment of risks to outcomes or delivery
  • Annual ratings of 'use of resources'
  • Annual ratings of the progress made on delivering improvements
  • External inspections targeted primarily on the basis of the risk assessment

"Many authorities have their own local requirements that are very much priorities, but these priorities sometimes compromise published performance, for example central government indicators," said the NCC's managing director Stefan Foster.

"A wider dialogue and understanding between the two sides would be massively beneficial and private sector input could contribute significantly, particularly given their longer standing experience with performance management techniques and applications."

On the issue of the government indicators, Foster told GC News: "Local authorities need to understand much more about what central government and its representatives, the National Audit Office, want to do."

He said that while the reduction in the number of indicators could be seen as a good thing, it was unclear as to whether this represented a real reduction or simply consolidation under broader indicators.

The report is based on interviews with the Shared Learning Group – a collaboration between Microsoft and 11 local authorities aimed at improving services.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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