Examination of Witness (Questions 500-519)|
THURSDAY 11 JULY 2002
500. But an appeal against your decision, for
instance, to equally weight each of the services is not going
to be possible?
(Mr Kirby) Correct because we will have consulted
on that and we will have formed a judgment and different people
have different views as a matter of policy.
501. What is the point of trying to find one
label to stick on all the services of an individual authority?
You have inspections about its education services, about its social
services and recommendations about how they should put it right
and monitoring back as they put it in into practice. As someone
said to us the other day, if a local authority has got an awful
education service and awful social services and was having to
take steps to put that right but they have got quite a good trading
standards department but it gets labelled as failing as well because
the local authority is labelled as failing, is that fair or is
(Mr Kirby) There are no councils which have totally
perfect services and there are no councils which have totally
failing services. Everybody has the mix you suggest.
502. Why the need to label everything as poor?
(Mr Kirby) What we are intending to produce in early
December is individual ratings for each of the services so people
will be able to see in an overall judgment very clearly here is
a star rating for education, a star rating for housing, and a
star rating for environment. As well as that they will be able
to see the council's judgment on corporate capacity to improve
and a combination of those two things.
503. Why combine those things at the end?
(Mr Kirby) We are out to consultation on that.
504. So you may not do that?
(Mr Kirby) What we are saying in here is
505. There might be a possibility that you do
not have an overall category for the authority as a whole? Yes
or no, if you can do that?
(Mr Kirby) What we are saying is you will end up with
a description of how good each of the services is now and a description
of the capacity to improve, and then there are different ways
to combine that together.
506. Do you need to combine it at all?
(Mr Kirby) You could combine it by putting the two
together in the same sentence.
507. Do you need to combine it with one overall
score for the authority?
(Mr Kirby) What we are saying
508. Do you need to combine it in an overall
(Mr Kirby) The option is there to do it.
509. Do you need to do it? Is it of any use
(Mr Kirby) What we have found is that currently in
most of our inspection work we give a two-dimensional judgment.
We give a star rating for current service. If, for example, we
are inspecting housing, we might say that the housing repairs
service is currently one star on a naught, one, two three basis,
but it has very positive prospects for improving, and we would
say that is a two-dimensional judgment.
510. Do you need to have an overall category?
(Mr Kirby) At the moment that is what we have found
511. We are establishing something that you
are not answering and that is
(Mr Kirby) I am going to answer it, which is that
we have those two dimensions. What we have found is that often
in the public reporting of that people report one or the other,
so the message is often quite negative for local government, that
this is a low rated service, and people forget the overall improvement
512. I am talking about an overall score for
(Mr Kirby) The overall score is a matter of adding
up the services.
513. But do you need to do that?
(Mr Kirby) We feel that having one overall category
combining current performance with improvement is a useful way
of describing the state of the authority.
514. You do need it? It is in the Bill, is it
(Mr Kirby) If you gave a judgment on capacity to improve
515. The requirement to have a category is in
(Mr Kirby) It could be two-dimensional.
516. Let us have it two-dimensional. One bit
of it is excellent and the other bit is not much good at all.
Now then, they have the right to trade, do they not, as a result
of that? If you have that two-dimensional process, are they still
going to have the right to trade?
(Mr Kirby) It depends how ministers are going to use
517. So you are not putting the categories together
but you expect ministers to put them together?
(Mr Kirby) As I understand the draft Bill, the Audit
Commission will assess and come to a view on categorisation which
is based on our view about current capacity and prospects for
improvement. Ministers will not be able to change those but they
will decide on what the consequences are. They could decide the
consequences are based on the capacity to improve. The earlier
examples, for example, to use the labels "coasting"
and "striving", which are around, were based on that.
518. They have gone now.
(Mr Kirby) So there should be an improvement. You
could just base it on current service level. What we have said
is a combination of the two makes sense. For a council with a
strong capacity to improve which is delivering rotten local services
now, the public have a different sort of council, one that could
turn around from one that currently has good services and could
519. It is a series of subjective judgments
managing to be reduced to numbers?
(Mr Kirby) It is using numbers.