Labour Council Leader, Leonora Thomson, proposes to spend Â£457,000 next year on Around Ealing telling us how great the Council is. Since it went monthly in January, by happy coincidence the run up to local elections in May, the two last issues have carried prominent articles penned by Thomson lauding the Council’s achievements in getting a 3 star rating from the Audit Commission.
The Audit Commission is the Government’s standards setting body and it is this Labour council’s fixation with pleasing central government and the Audit Commission rather than pleasing its residents that led to last year’s expensive fiasco in the courts that cost us Â£350,000. The Council would do well to stop telling us about the Audit Commission’s CPA and to focus on service delivery. But as Thomson raises the issue let us look at it in more detail.
The Council’s press release on the subject does not link to the actual scorecard produced by the Audit Commission. The reason for this is that their assessment is a lot more mixed than the Council would like us to be aware of. Some of the quotes that did not make it into the Council’s press release were: “some performance indicators do not compare well with other councils nationally” and “the Council needs to develop a more overarching value for money culture”.
It is worth pointing out that 68% of councils achieved 3 or 4 stars so this is very much a prizes for all system. You have to be really quite crap to be marked down by this new system.
The scorecard comprises 10 different measures that are essentially on a four point scale from Excellent, Good, Adequate to Poor.
Overall Performance – Good (but then so are 68% of councils)
Direction of Travel – Adequate (over 70% of councils are doing better than this)
Benefits – Good
Children and Young People – Good
Culture – Good
Environment – Adequate (not Queen of the Suburbs then)
Housing – Adequate
Adult Social Care – Adequate
Use of Resources – Adequate (this is all about financial management controls, value for money, etc)
Council Ability – Good
The main point here is that whilst Ealing is only improving adequately over 70% of councils assessed had a “Direction of Travel” that was improving strongly or improving well. More importantly maybe for Ealing residents three main front line service functions: environment, housing and adult social care, and the Council’s overall ability to manage its finances are merely adequate. In none of the 10 areas is the council excellent.
So although Thomson is wasting our time and money telling us how great the Council is she is in fact presiding over mediocrity, as warranted by the Audit Commission.