ODPM local government performance chief announces greater emphasis on Value for Money in next round of spending
8 July, 2003

The director of the ODPM Local Government Performance Unit today gave a clear indication that cost effectiveness and value for money in the provision of local services will feature heavily in future assessments of local authority spending. Addressing a New Local Government Network (NLGN) conference, Phillip Ward said:

“The next spending round will be different from earlier ones. There will be more focus on getting better services more cost effectively – an expectation of some payback on earlier investments.”

At the conference Making Progress Under CPA: the future of assessment – strategies for success, Mr Ward also outlined the driving principles behind the ODPM’s enthusiasm for CPA:

“Our overall objective is to provide for effective, devolved decision-making within a framework of national targets and policies – an interesting area into which people like the NLGN and the new localism debate are taking us”.

“We don’t see CPA as being about league tables – there is no one-against-one comparison or attempt to identify the best or worst authority in the country. It is about giving people some sense of where they are in relation to others”.

And in outlining the benefits of the assessment process and its potential outcomes, Mr Ward added:

“CPA offers the opportunity to build up trust to support the new freedoms on offer, and to encourage central government to give up more. It is about getting the balance right between ‘bureaucracy busting’ and retaining the principles of earned autonomy. It is also about overcoming obstacles and showing the rest of Whitehall that there are alternatives to traditional delivery approaches”.

The conference, held in London also heard from Chris Naylor, an Assistant Director at the IDeA
who spoke about the need for local political leadership:

“The importance of political leadership in the improvement process is in danger of becoming a truism – something that management consultants and inspectors note; basically we know when it’s there and we can tell when it’s not. But for me, CPA is excessively political, posing a communications challenge, a relationships challenge, a decision-making challenge and a party political challenge. Politicians need to be good at speaking and doing the language of hearts and minds, and good at facing the politics of tough choice and improvement”.

Having contributed to the recent Audit Commission consultation exercise on the future of CPA, NLGN has since welcomed a number of the Commission’s proposed reforms – particularly its more flexible approach to when a council can apply for CPA – while continuing to express concern over the catch 22 nature of the earned autonomy agenda.

All NLGN media enquiries to Ian Parker – 020 7357 0116 / ian@nlgn.org.uk

Editors notes: The New Local Government Network (NLGN) is an independent think-tank, seeking to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower local communities.

The conference Making Progress Under CPA: the future of assessment – strategies for success was held on 8 July in central London. Other speakers included Peter Kane, Director, OPSR; Jo Killian, CPA Project Director, Audit Commission; Mary Ney, Chief Executive, LB Greenwich; Barry Quirk, Chief Executive, LB Lewisham; Steve Stewart, Assistant Chief Executive, Wakefield MDC; Cllr Mick Young, Leader, Northamptonshire County Council; Tracey Connage, Assistant Director of Best Practice, Employers’ Organisation; and Pam Fox, Independent Consultant and Member of the ODPM Local Government Modernisation Team.

NLGN’s response to the recent Audit Commission consultation CPA – The Next Steps can be found within the media section of our website.