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POS welcomes new Area Assessments from Audit Commission but calls for a much higher profile for planning

Date: 10/10/2008

The Planning Officers Society has today strongly supported the development of the new Comprehensive Area Assessments proposed by the Audit Commission as the replacement for CPA in assessing councils performance.

“The principles and approach behind CAA are a welcome improvement on the previous CPA methodology said POS president Phil Kirby; the Society strongly supports the principle of moving from a focus on assessing individual services and authorities to a focus on the contribution of local planning authorities to the delivery of outcomes in an area. The delivery of sustainable communities lies at the heart of our work’’

However Steve Oxenham, the Chair of the POS  Management and Performance Committee, the group that advises the Society on management issues, warned that there are still a number of improvements and issues the society would wish to see urgently addressed before it is implemented or in future iterations of the new regime.

The Society today has therefore approved a 15 page response based on a paper from its committee outlining proposed improvements to the CAA. It intends to submit this to the Audit Commission as its formal response to the consultation. (Copy of full response attached as Annex 1 to this release)

The importance of having development and planning properly reflected in the CAA was stressed by some of the Society’s most experienced officers.
“As CPA has clearly shown if any service such as planning is underrepresented in CAA then that service will lose influence and clout within authorities – as a service it will be marginalized and the planning view will not be heard at the top policy making tables.” added Andrew Wright the General Manager of POS Enterprises, ' we must not let that happen.'
“We believe that as well as giving greater emphasis to the development planning system within the CAA,  the Commission and the Government should acknowledge the current inadequacies and (more importantly) commit to working with the society and the wider planning community to urgently address them both now and in future iterations of the CAA”.

The society’s response states that it would “be delighted” to contribute to any process or initiative designed to address this challenge.

“The Society is already working with the Planning Advisory Service on a benchmark designed to identify the characteristics of an “ideal” planning service for use within the CAA explained Lynda Addison of Addison Associates who are leading this work “we have a really strong track record of working with the Commission and would obviously welcome further collaboration on this, and other related issues”. 

“Central to the problem is the vexed question as to how to measure the quality of the outcomes from the planning system said Vice President Emeritus Paul Watson from Solihull, it is the inability of previous assessment regimes to adequately reflect assess the “qualitative” as opposed to the “quantitative” aspects of the planning system in terms of both its individual and collective outputs and the consequential community outcomes has been the heart of the problem.

Dave Ayre from Dorset County Council who is also secretary of the committee added “despite our mutual best efforts we have yet to develop a robust, consistent and universal way of evaluating planning quality. This, we believe, can and must be done, if the CAA and other “area-based” assessment regimes are to optimize the quality of their appraisals and the usefulness of their application to making improvements in the quality of life for our citizens and communities”.




The new Comprehensive Area Assessments were first proposed as the successor to CPA in the Local Government White Paper “Creating Strong Safe and Prosperous Communities” published by the government in October 2007 and enacted in the Local Government Act 2008. They will be introduced from April 2009 and the first reports will be published in Autumn 2009
The Audit Commission published a copy of their proposals for CAA in a consultation exercise which is open for comments between 31st July and 29 October; See http://www.audit.commission.gov.uk/caa/downloads/CAAConsultation08.pdf
He Audit Commission are currently piloting parts of the new system in 10 areas throughout the country.
CPA (Comprehensive Performance Assessments) was introduced by the Audit Commission in England in 2001 and has been widely acknowledged as a major success in driving up local authority performance and the delivery of public services. They address all local authority services including education, social services, waste collection and transport as well as town and country planning services. (See the following link http://www.audit.commission.gov.uk/cpa/index.asp?page=index.asp&area=hpcpa
The performance of individual local authorities is reported annually in public reports to all authorities. (See the Audit Committee general website www.audit-commission,gov,uk
The new system is designed to be more streamlined and effective than CPA and is designed to integrate with the new performance regimes propose for Health Services known as World Class Commissioning (See
 The new system is designed to be more streamlined and effective than CPA and designed to integrate with the new performance management regime proposed for the Police known as APACS or the Assessments of Policing and Community Safety and can be accessed through the following link to the Home Office website 
The new system for the police was announced in the recent Policing Green Paper which can be accessed through the following link to the Home Office website  http://files.homeoffice.gov.uk/police/policing_green_paper.pdf

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