Two Councils Accuse the Audit Commission’s Comprehensive Area Assessment Regime (CAA) As "costly and ineffective".

Wandsworth & Hammersmith and Fulham to cap staff time

Associated Articles

Wandsworth Council

Hammersmith & Fulham Council


The councils estimate this year’s assessment cost local taxpayers more than £200,000 and tied up hours of senior management time. This is in addition to the costs incurred by the other public sector agencies involved.

Wandsworth Council and Hammersmith and Fulham believe a mix of simple performance indicators and costs data – supported by customer satisfaction scores - provide a more objective guide to service quality and value for money.

The Audit Commission will publish findings for all councils today (December 9th). The Wandsworth assessment, which includes local police, health and fire services, is expected to result in a highly positive outcome - praising the council for its strong partnership working and top quality value for money services.

The council has been consistently rated as performing excellently since 2002 when the current arrangements of yearly assessments were started. In the last published assessment (December 2008) children’s services were rated in the top ‘outstanding’ category.

Wandsworth residents pay the lowest council tax bills in the country. In a 2008 survey of UK local authorities, 73 per cent of residents said the council offered good value for money – the highest score in the country. The council also achieved the UK’s highest resident satisfaction rating for its services (75 per cent).

Council leader Edward Lister says the effort that went into meeting the assessors’ demands was a huge distraction:
“This new regime is too bland and too superficial to provide any meaningful insights. In attempting to cover just about every aspect of public life in the area the reports simply descend into generalities. Despite the huge effort in cost and time there is nothing here that provides any added value for our tax payers.

“We are not going to waste another year propping up such a wasteful and poorly directed system. Our staff’s time is better invested in supporting and developing the vital local services that really matter to local people. The results that are important to us are those that tell us how well we are delivering our services. Anything else is expensive window dressing. 

“Wandsworth has repeatedly called for smarter assessments that concentrate on known risk areas and pick out under-performing organisations. People need to know that vital services like child protection are being thoroughly examined. But when it comes to the kind of sweeping judgements contained in these new all-embracing reports the approach becomes far less clinical. What tax payers want to know is that their council is providing good services and value for money. They can judge this from how much they pay and their own experience of receiving services.

“It’s absolutely right that the way children are educated, older people looked after and public money spent should be simply assessed and reported. We will continue to give these key areas our full cooperation. But in other areas where the wider process has become muddled, subjective and hopelessly over-complicated we are going to call a halt to the paper chase.”

Hammersmith and Fulham leader Stephen Greenhalgh said:
"In all my years as council leader I can count on one hand the number of times I have been asked what rating the Audit Commission has given the council. I am a passionate localist and believe all councils should be cut free from the centralised bureaucracy and inefficiency of the gargantuan inspection industry if we are going to be able to deliver even better services at lower cost to our tax payers."

The Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) comprises an area overview that looks at all local public services including councils, health, fire and police and organisational reports for individual organisations. The results are published at:


December 9, 2009