It’s that time of year again, and the Birmingham Post have given a full run-down on just how our local council’s have faired in the Audit Commission’s annual assessments of their performance. And, for the most part, it isn’t great news.
Amongst those who’ve dropped a star is would-be trailblazers Birmingham City Council, who fell back down to two stars after three years, Telford & Wrekin Council (three stars), Wolverhampton City Council (two stars) and – rather unsurprisingly – Stoke-on-Trent City Council (two stars) who never cease to amaze...
The newspaper reports that Herefordshire and Sandwell remained on two stars, Warwickshire remained on three, and Dudley, Shropshire and Worcestershire all remained on four.
Most of the councils who lost a star decided not to reflect on this too much in their press releases, practicing damage limitation by plucking whatever positives are to be had from what, for many, was a pretty dismal performance. And of course, when pushed, they have their excuses, namely that the assessment bar was raised on Childrens’ Services this year in light of the Baby P scandal, and though this may well be the truth of it it doesn’t explain why a council like Coventry managed to race ahead and score four stars – the highest possible mark – in spite of these more stringent evaluations.
It’s true that we should proceed with caution before laying any real emphasis on these questionable assessments, but we also shouldn’t forget how often our councils will roll out their CPA scores by way of justifying one action or another, or as a means of proving that taxpayers are getting value for money. These results will certainly have them scratching their heads and Birmingham City Council, who have so proudly claimed to have received the ‘second best’ assessment score a local authority can achieve, will have to reword their defence to ‘third best’ or ‘second worst’.
What a difference a star makes to a publicity department.
So will they be forsaking pay increases to reflect these poor results? Don’t count on it. And what is more, every single one of these councils will be increasing council tax yet again this year. Rather than cutting back on unnecessary costs in order to lower council tax and increase funding to frontline services that are clearly flagging, you can bet that our councils will be boosting their coffers with taxpayers cash in order to increase their pay, hire more middle managers, pump extra into local government workers pension pots and crank up their publicity (to improve their images in light of the bad CPA scores!), just as we’ve shown them to do year on year for the past 11 years.