By David Williams
21 July 2010
The Audit Commission is planning to cut its costs by 30% and
focus on supporting self-inspection in local government – but has warned that some
public bodies risk ‘financial non-viability’ as funding is cut.
Gareth Davies, the commission’s managing director for local
government, said this morning that the inspectorate could provide advice,
analysis and expertise to help councils make savings and increase productivity.
Speaking at the launch of a New Local Government Network
report into the future of inspection, Davies said: ‘Spending reductions create
some new risks, and understanding those is going to be central to the job of
our auditors because organisations are already, in some parts of public
services, close to financial non-viability and that’s going to accelerate very
Saying the commission would cut its own costs by 30% over
the coming years, he outlined the role the body could play now its inspection
regime, the Comprehensive Area Assessment, has been scrapped by the coalition
Davies said the commission could still support
self-inspection and peer review in the local government sector. He outlined
plans to share expertise and analysis, and help councils to make savings and
He added that
the commission’s annual letters on organisations it audits could be made more accessible to the public, allowing people to hold
councils to account over their financial management.
The commission will also scrap its flagship Oneplace
website, Davies revealed. The site, which publishes the results of the CAA in a
format designed to be easy for the general public to interpret, was launched
with great fanfare last December.
David Parsons, chair of the Local Government Association’s
improvement board, made strikingly similar recommendations for the commission’s
The inspectorate’s role could be confined to four tasks, he
said. These were: independent financial audit; regulatory inspections of
schools and care homes; more comprehensive inspections of struggling
authorities; and sharing intelligence of councils’ performance.
He said the LGA had raised self-assessment and peer review plans
with ministers, and ‘things have been moving apace’.
Parsons acknowledged that centralised inspection had
improved performance initially, but argued: ‘It has done its job.’
The NLGN’s report, Throughthe looking glass, also recommended more self-assessment in the local
government sector, along with citizens being given more information on
spending, with a right to petition the LGA if services fail.