UK Government

Communities and Local Government: John Denham welcomes tough new test for public services putting the customer first

Press Release   •   Dec 11, 2009 11:15 GMT

A powerful new tool giving local people unprecedented information about the standard of public services in their area was today welcomed by Communities Secretary John Denham.

The Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) will enable citizens to check for themselves how well councils and their partners are delivering the services that matter most to them, including:

  • raising school standards;
  • tackling and preventing anti-social behaviour;
  • promoting independence for older people;
  • cutting disparities in health; reducing teenage pregnancies;
  • reducing homelessness and ending rough sleeping;
  • delivering value for money for the taxpayer's pound.
  • The new assessment system brings together in one place the results of all the different inspectorates so residents can judge how well their council and other public agencies are working together to meet local priorities - with a clear emphasis on outcomes and achievements.

CAA is only the first step towards opening up local information to citizens to help them better hold their service providers to account.

Mr Denham said that every council across the country should be aiming to be the best in every service they provide and urged them to rise to the challenges laid down by today's assessment findings.

CAA builds on the Government's Total Place approach to check all public spending going into an area in order to cut out inefficiencies and waste, and  wider reforms to strengthen local democracy by giving the public's elected representatives greater scrutiny over all the services in an area, not just those provided by the council.

The new assessment regime goes hand in hand with the reforms unveiled this week in the Government's smarter government paper to free up councils to lead the transformation of front line services and to radically open up data and public information to citizens.

John Denham said:

"The new assessment system is putting more information about the state of local services into the hands of the public than ever before.

"It is just the start of our efforts to give local people far better access to information held by local public organisations so they can challenge, compare or scrutinise their local services in order to drive up standards in their area.

"We expect all councils to be delivering the best local services possible and to respond to the challenges laid out in today's assessments.

"CAA is a tougher, less bureaucratic, more transparent, more outcome focused test, but this isn't the last word on raising performance. Through our smarter government reforms unveiled this week, we are continuing to look at how to free up councils to lead the transformation of front line services and to radically open up public data for citizens to harness its power."

As part of the smarter government reforms announced this week, Professor Nigel Shadbolt will lead a Local Public Data Panel to make sure data is linked effectively across government, councils and local bodies.

Neil Cleeveley, Director of Policy at National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, said:

"We think CAA has been a good process - a definite improvement on CPA. At NAVCA we see plenty of good work between local third sector infrastructure organisations, local authorities and their partners revealed by this process.

"There is a difference in climate. In the past, some organisations have felt uneasy about voicing their opinions about local statutory organisations. With CAA they have felt much more like partners and there's been more of a spirit of cooperation and openness."

Dr Shahed Ahmad, Director of Public Health NHS Enfield, said:

"CAA has allowed us to highlight priorities in the context of Enfield as a place. It has helped to give impetus to our policy development and focus on what we are doing to serve the community. External validation from the inspectorates has been very much welcome."

Notes to editors

1. Comprehensive Area Assessment is a new tougher test for assessing the performance of local government. It also looks at how well all service providers are working together to deliver improvements across an area from crime reduction, housing and tackling recession, to regeneration, sustainability, and health. CAA replaces the previous system of Comprehensive Performance Assessment.

2. The results of CAA are available on the Oneplace website at

3. CAA is part of the move towards smarter government where performance is judged not just on promises but outcomes achieved and value for money for the taxpayer's pound. 'Putting the frontline first: Smarter Government' sets out radical new vision to deliver public services for lower cost. It includes actions to make independent assessment even more effective and streamlined building on the reforms under CAA; by Coordinating timings of all assessments, inspections and reporting arrangements by 2010-11 where they focus on similar outcomes, and consider a new cross government data gateway; reviewing the work and number of inspectorates to save at least £100m, reporting at Budget 2010; and asking Total Place pilots to quantify total burdens across local agencies and priorities for streamlining burdens.

4. CAA is reducing bureaucracy and burdens - with the number of performance indicators cut from around 1200 to 188; the number of inspection days in councils has been reduced by a third while the cost of the independent inspection has been reduced by 30 per cent.


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