Frodo and localism

10 Dec 2009 by Karl Hallam

This week saw the announcement of the first new Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) scores. Previously local authorities were mainly marked on the performance of their own services, via the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA). As the Communities department puts it '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'. The bit about 'how well all servies providers are working together' is the crucial point. If the CAA marks an area's fellowship then who are the ring holders? Are local authorities charged with the Frodo Baggins role?

The Lord of the Rings analogy will not appeal to all including spin doctor 'Ollie' in The Thick Of It who cannot abide the Conservative's excessive use of Lord of the Rings analogies to describe everything. But, to persist, the interesting thing about Frodo is that he was not the obvious choice to be the ring holder, but he rose to the occasion showing previously somewhat hidden qualities. In the press release announcing the new one stop website for local agency performance oneplace, John Demham is quite clear that he sees LAs as crucial saying 'we are continuing to look at how to free up councils to lead the transformation of front line services '. In this case he means all local front line services not just local authority ones ... we think?

Another emphasis in the release was the provision of data to the public, with the suggestion that this in itself will improve services. Is this realistic? And if it is how is 'area' accountability to be dealt with? PCTs and Police Authorities do not operate with the democratic mandate that councils do, however low turnouts. The Conservatives have said they will scrap oneplace if they come to power. Who do they see as the ring holder ... Gandalf? Is Gandalf an elected Mayor? 

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