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CPA Inspection Due

Comprehensive Performance AssessmentCPA stands for 'Comprehensive Performance Assessment'. It is the Government's measure of how Fylde Cabinet is doing.

It's also the cause of the dissatisfaction that underpins every bad decision made by the Cabinet in recent times. It's the at the root of all disaffected local groups (and there are many), and it is the founding ire of every angry resident.

But to our Commissar, it is the ONLY issue of any importance. It is his single focus.

Closing the swimming pool is as nothing beside a good CPA score. Wiping out almost all of the reserve funds to cover a £1.2 million financial loss is irrelevant. Closing public lavatories is just an inconvenience, as is alienating visitors with zealous traffic management regulations and fixed penalty parking notices for people in church.

None of this matters a jot compared with his getting off the "Weak" spot that is next to the bottom of the CPA assessment ladder where Fylde has been since he came to power.

This is why he listens without hearing. Why he disdains public opinion.

He longs to be seen as the man who 'turned round a failing council'

He so desperately wants that on his parliamentary CV he will do anything to make it happen.

He is so single focused in this matter, he chooses to do what the Government wants done (as expressed through the CPA targets), and he ignores what the people who elected him want him to do - because these objectives are in almost complete conflict.

That's why housing - especially the so called "affordable housing" (which is anything but what it sounds to be) - is at the absolute top of Fylde's agenda. Report after report with trumped-up figures has been produced to deceive less savvy councillors into believing there is a waiting list of 4,600 people in Fylde  anxious to find social rented housing, when the truth is much less than a quarter of this figure. He knows this, but chooses to ignore it. He also ignores the view expressed by the electorate at repeated "State of the Borough" events where every one of these focus groups said housing should be one of the lowest priorities for the Council.

He supports plans that both 'modernise' the area and destroy the character that makes it what it is. He obliterates our heritage. Like so many who only have eyes for money, he see history as yesterday; what matters is only tomorrow.

He willingly takes on the Government's left wing social engineering mantra as he worries that the borough is not sufficiently diverse in its socio-economic profile. So he pushes forward measures to produce a more 'balanced' community - (and that's his own use of social engineering terminology). He knows this is wholly opposed to what the vast majority of local people what him to do. They want him to empty the bins, cut the grass, clean the streets, look after the infrastructure, and provide the high quality public services they expect.

He glories in forging "joint working schemes" and outsourcing our services to other councils irrespective of whether they cost us more or not (which the Personnel service and the Wyre Refuse Contract do) because joint outsourcing is a government aim and it will get him brownie points in the CPA. He says this is not a prelude to a City of the Fylde. There will be no single administrative unit so despised by almost all who live here. But he dare not tell the truth - that the "Fylde Coast Authority" (and that will be its name) is already one third created in all but name, and that monster is only to be but one building block in the Central Lancashire City Sub Region - which itself is a prelude to the imposition of regional government on an unwilling electorate.

He sees his job as giving us strong leadership when we want to be represented. He promotes the Government's view to us when he should be promoting our views to Government.

But he cares not a jot about what the electorate want. Only about getting off the bottom rung of the CPA ladder. So he will dance to whatever tune the Government piper plays.

And now his chance has arrived.

The CPA inspectors are due next week.

Literally years of preparation have gone into getting ready for this visit.

For months, council officers have been focused on this event to the exclusion of almost everything else. Vast documents showing how closely Fylde is conforming with Government targets have been produced to support the case, and even glowing self assessment reports have been produced to show the inspectors from the Audit Commission how wonderful the Council is.

It seems to be working.

In the recent 'mock inspection', we understand the inspectors expressed the view that there had been much improvement since the Commissar took over, and it was only a hostile local media that were causing problems for the Council.

Yes, really.

Last week there was a tour of the Borough, and next week, between 10th and 14th there will be a full week of inspection by the Audit Commission team.

They have commissioned MORI to do a 3,000 person survey of how residents view the Council. MORI won't accept forms from anyone except their statistically selected sample of 3,000, so most people won't get a chance to have their say.

You can see a copy of the MORI form here. It shows the sort of information they want to know.

But sadly, by the time the MORI data gets to the Audit Commission, it will have been 'averaged out' and statistised, and it will lose the raw edge you get from reading the real views of real people.

We think the Audit Commission ought to know how local people feel about what has been going on in Fylde from a wider range of people, so we are publishing the email addresses for the CPA Inspection Team Leader and his head honcho.

If you have concerns about how the Council has behaved, or the decisions it has made, or about the way it is structured, you might want to let the inspectors know that it isn't a hostile media that's the problem, its a Cabinet that listens until it is blue in the face - but then completely ignores the wishes of its electorate.

If that's how you feel, the inspectors ought to know. So tell them. Now.

The Audit Commission team is:

Les Watson
Audit Commission Team Leader
Audit Commission Inspection Service
Northern Region
Kernel House
Killingbeck Drive
LS14 6UF
0113 251 7100

Les Watson is an Area Performance Lead (APL) with the Audit Commission. He joined the Audit Commission Inspection Service in February 2001 and carried out a wide variety of best value service inspections before taking up his APL role in 2004. Before joining the Audit Commission, he worked for South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council for 20 years; initially as a secondary school teacher and then within LEA administration, where he held a range of responsibilities, including youth work and behaviour support.

James Taylor
Audit Commission Team Member
Audit Commission Inspection Service
Northern Region
Kernel House
Killingbeck Drive
LS14 6UF
0113 251 7100

Wendy Parry,
Peer Officer (From Derby)

Catherine Allen
Support Officer from the Audit Commission

The only good thing in all of this nonsense is that eventually we get our own Comprehensive Performance Assessment in a couple of years.

Its called an election.

Dated:  1 November 2008


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