Last week the Audit Commission, the people who monitor councils, announced the results of the latest Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) of Local Authorities and awarded South Tyneside Council 4-stars council, which means that the council has been judged “Excellent.”
But, alas, CPA is not the panacea which Miss Piggy and the Dominatrix are claiming. In fact, CPA is being abolished at the end of this month, to be replaced by something better. Being graded “Excellent” in a flawed process is better than being graded “Poor.” But the process is flawed, and the the Labour council shouldn’t get carried away.
As the title suggests, Comprehensive Performance Assessment is a comprehensive way of assessing services. But the way that it does so is very much to do with performance statistics, which can mean the targeting of resources to meet targets and tick boxes rather than to respond to what resdients on the street actually want. It’s a flaw which has long been evident yet never been properly corrected.
This is evident in South Tyneside where, for instance, Neighbourhood Services score very highly. The department’s staff do their job well and do indeed hit their targets. But whilst the Audit Commission might judge that there’s success, Mr Monkey wonders if they’d have the same view if they actually lived in the borough and had to deal with litter un-swept, graffiti un-cleaned, and roads un-repaired? Mr Monkey doubt’s it.
These problems aren’t to do with bad staff, there to do with mis-directed money and the result of local people being ignored – CPA doesn’t have anything to say about that.
CPA has always lacked enough emphasis on service user satisfaction, relaying on tightly-worded tri-annual surveys rather than mystery shopping or the experience of councillors. The process has also been far too heavily weighted to national priorities at the expense of local ones, and has put adherence to government wish lists ahead of proper local scrutiny.