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Council calls for resident power to replace old government inspections - 09.12.09

Put residents back in the driving seat of councils and cut costly inspections. That's Sutton Council's verdict on the Audit Commission's first ever Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA), despite a strong result for the borough.

The CAA is part of old government and no longer affordable or fit for purpose, say council leaders, who think costly inspections can be replaced by greater power for residents.

In the report published today (9 December), the council was judged to be performing well and scored three out of four. It also received a green flag – a new indicator of exceptional achievement and innovation – for its work on the environment and climate change.

The CAA report noted that "most services in Sutton are delivered to a high standard and are getting better" and that "crime is low and falling." The report added that "children and young people achieve much better than other areas in education" and "Sutton leads the way in protecting the borough's environment and is a national example to other areas."

On the day of the publication of the CAA, the council published its latest MORI survey of residents' opinion, showing a further increase in resident satisfaction with the area and the overall performance of the council.

Cllr Sean Brennan, Leader of Sutton Council, said:

"We know that our residents want the council to get on with its job, providing quality services that represent value for money.

"While of course it's good to be recognised as a national leader for the work we are doing on the environment among other areas, frankly what the Audit Commission thinks of us is a non-issue for local people.

"We applaud the drive for greater accountability but the industry that goes into these reports isn't value for money. It is old government from the boom times of centralisation. You have to question what we or anyone else will learn from these reports that we couldn't get from publishing the in-depth market research, and the sophisticated performance improvement data that council's now have at their disposal.

"Almost nine out of ten of people are satisfied with Sutton as a place to live and the number of people who are satisfied with the way the council runs things is going up. That's where we need to start. Yet we have an annual inspection regime with an enormous cost, both for central government and in terms of the time and energy a modest borough like Sutton has to devote to form filling and box ticking.

"We measure what our residents think through regular detailed market research. It's their views that are the ones that matter, not some remote inspector. We also know local people would rather this time and money was spent on front line services.

"We hope this year's CAA process is the death knell for expensive, remote national inspections."

Paul Martin, Chief Executive of Sutton Council, added:

"Inspections play their part and can be useful, but the CAA is what it says on the tin – comprehensive – and that means expensive.

"It also means indiscriminate and in the current climate, it means unaffordable."

Last updated: Monday, 14 December 2009

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