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									                          Southend-on-Sea Borough Council                                               Agenda
                                                                                                        Item No.
                                       Report of Chief Executive & Town Clerk
                                                   20 May 2008

                       Report prepared by: Ceri Armstrong, Corporate Strategy and
                                         Performance Manager

   Southend Council Corporate Assessment Inspection Report and High Level
                             Improvement Plan
Economic and Environmental Scrutiny Committee, Executive Councillor: Councillor
                        A Part 1 Public Agenda Item

 1.            Purpose of Report

 1.1           To present the Audit Commission’s Corporate Assessment Inspection Report
               May 2008; and

 1.2           To identify what action the Council is taking to address the report’s
               recommendations and improvement opportunities.

 2.            Recommendations

 2.1           The Audit Commission’s Corporate Assessment Inspection Report of Southend
               Council is noted; and

 2.2           Southend Council’s Corporate Assessment High Level Improvement Plan is

 3.            Background

 3.1           The Audit Commission carried out a Corporate Assessment inspection of the
               Council in September 2007.

 3.2           Corporate Assessment inspections contribute towards Councils’ overall
               Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) ratings and are an element of
               the CPA scorecard.

 3.3           The purpose of the Corporate Assessment is to assess how well the Council
               engages with and leads its communities, delivers community priorities in
               partnership with others, and ensures continuous improvement across the range
               of Council activities. It seeks to answer three headline questions which are
               underpinned by five specific themes:

               What is the Council, together with its partners, trying to achieve?
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                               Ambition
                               Prioritisation

              What is the capacity of the Council, including its work with partners, to deliver
              what it is trying to achieve?
                         Capacity
                         Performance Management

              What has been achieved?
                      Achievement

              Considered against the shared priorities of:
                      Sustainable Communities and Transport;
                      Safer and Stronger Communities;
                      Healthier Communities;
                      Older People; and
                      Children and Young People.

3.4           The Council’s last Corporate Assessment took place in 2002. The methodology
              used for CPAs and Corporate Assessment inspections altered in 2005 – entitled
              by the Audit Commission as ‘The Harder Test’. The new methodology was a
              more stringent assessment with a greater emphasis on outcomes for local
              people and value for money. Because of the differences in methodology, a
              direct comparison cannot be made with the Council’s previous Corporate

4.            Corporate Assessment Inspection Score 2007

4.1           The Council’s Corporate Assessment Inspection Score 2007 is as follows:
              Overall Score                 2

              Individual Theme Scores:
              Ambition                           2
              Prioritisation                     2
              Capacity                           2
              Performance Management             2
              Achievement                        2

4.2           The rationale for the score behind each theme is contained within the inspection
              report. This is attached as Appendix 1. A brief summary of key strengths and
              improvement opportunities per theme is contained below:

              Key Strengths:
                     Clear and challenging ambitions
                     Partners fully engaged with developing the Vision
                     Robust plans in place for delivering ambitions – in partnership
                     Good partnership working
                     A good broad understanding of the local context and needs, and the
                      challenges and opportunities facing Southend

              Key Improvement Opportunities:
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                           Develop a greater understanding of the needs of all vulnerable groups
                           Be clear about how objectives and priorities will be resourced
                           Consistent use of information and knowledge
                           Improve engagement with groups at risk of disadvantage

              Key Strengths:
                      Clear priorities that support the Council’s ambitions
                      Priorities that reflect most local needs – and reflect the importance local
                       people attach to these issues
                      Additional resource allocated to Corporate Priorities
                      Difficult decisions taken to re-allocate resource to priorities to ensure
                      Strategies in place to underpin priorities

              Key Improvement Opportunities
                    A number of strategies and plans are in their infancy and need
                     embedding – including clearly identifying outcomes
                    Financial planning to be further aligned with the Council’s priorities –
                     including within service plans
                    Ensure that priorities meet the needs of groups most at risk of

              Key Strengths:
                     Effective partnership working
                     Clear accountability and decision-making
                     Developing officer and councillor capacity
                     Strong leadership from senior management
                     Comprehensive approach to assessing risks in decision-making
                     Roles and responsibilities of key partnerships are clear
                     Effective development of staffing capacity to deliver ambitions
                     Comprehensive training and development programme for councillors

              Key Improvement Opportunities:
                    Clearly identify resource implications of delivering priorities
                    Implementation of the Asset Management Strategy
                    Further improve strategic leadership of partnership working by
                    Embed the management and application of e-government
                    Harness the capacity of ICT in service improvement

              Performance Management
              Key Strengths:
                     Systematic monitoring and challenge of performance
                     Clear accountability at officer and councillor level
                     Clear focus on driving performance forward
                     Comprehensive approach to service planning

              Key Improvement Opportunities:
                    Improved co-ordination of complaints to drive performance

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                           Provide a consistent approach to the performance management of
                           Performance management at an individual level to provide a focus on

              Key Strengths:
                     Effective at attracting external funding to support economic and
                      regeneration priorities
                     Contribution to improved employment opportunities – including reduced
                      unemployment in the most deprived areas
                     Effective working with the Crime and Disorder Partnership – including
                      reduced crime, the fear of crime, and anti-social behaviour
                     Effective prioritisation of health improvement and the reduction of health
                      inequalities – including access to health services
                     Development of an increasingly strategic approach to meting the needs
                      of older people – including helping more older people to live
                      independently with a better quality of life
                     Good impact of local services in helping children and young people to
                      enjoy their education and achieve economic well-being

              Key Improvement Opportunities:
                    Enhanced community engagement
                    Embed equality and diversity within the Council
                    Meet key challenges – including housing need
                    Further reduce health inequalities

5.            Joint Area Review (JAR) Children’s Services

5.1            At the same time the Audit Commission were carrying out their Corporate
               Assessment of the Council, Ofsted were carrying out a review of Children’s
               Services. The Ofsted inspection contributes to the Corporate Assessment –
               particularly the Children and Young People element of the Achievements

5.2            The outcome of the Children’s Services JAR is contained within a separate
               report being presented to Cabinet. Improvement areas have been incorporated
               within both service plans and the Children and Young People’s Plan.

6.            Improvement Action Plan

6.1           The Corporate Assessment inspection report reflects the journey the Council is
              on, and the foundations that it has laid to secure improvement.
                       ‘It (the Council) has put in place the building blocks to underpin
              improved organisational performance and development’

6.2           Improvement opportunities identified within the Audit Commission’s report have
              been captured in a high level improvement action plan. This is attached as
              Appendix 2. A more detailed action plan also exists, with actions being
              incorporated within both the Corporate Plan 2008/11 and the Council’s service
              plans and developing strategies.
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6.3           A number of the improvement areas highlighted within the report and related
              action plan have already been progressed.

6.4           The detailed action plan will be monitored on a regular basis through the
              Council’s Corporate Management Team, as part of the Council’s performance
              management arrangements. Exceptions will be reported to the Performance
              Improvement Task Group. Reporting to the Council’s Audit Committee will also
              take place to allow the Council to gain assurance that the arrangements in
              place are working effectively.

7.            Next Steps

7.1           The Audit Commission is changing the way that Council’s will be audited. From
              2008/09, the Council will be subjected to a new inspection regime known as the
              Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA). The CAA replaces the CPA and a
              number of the elements that contribute towards the CPA score – including the
              Corporate Assessment. The CAA focuses on an assessment of ‘Place’ and
              ‘outcomes’ rather than the performance of individual organisations and

7.2           The areas of improvement highlighted within the Corporate Assessment
              Inspection Report will continue to be relevant to the new CAA regime. This year
              will be a transitional year from CPA to CAA. The achievement of the
              improvement action plan will therefore assist with achieving a good CAA and
              ensure a ‘higher performing Council’.

7.3           A number of common themes have emerged from the Corporate Assessment
              report which are also relevant to CAA. These include:
                     Clearly identifying and achieving outcomes
                     Engagement with all of Southend’s communities
                     Fully understanding the needs of all of Southend’s communities
                     Robust partnership working
              Necessary improvements have been incorporated within the improvement plan.

7.4           Once final CAA guidance has been issued, a further paper will be submitted to
              Cabinet identifying what the Council is doing to prepare itself for the new

8.            Corporate Implications

8.1           Contribution to Council’s Vision & Corporate Priorities
              The Corporate Assessment report contains both strengths and improvement
              opportunities that contribute towards the achievement of the Council’s aims and
              priorities – in particular the aim of ‘Excellent Council’ and cross-cutting theme of
              ‘Higher Performing Council’. Achievement of the action plan will help with the
              achievement of a number of the Council’s priorities during 2008/9 and onwards.

8.2           Financial Implications
              There are no financial implications related specifically to the inspection report or
              related action plan. There are improvement opportunities related to the

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              alignment of finance with the Council’s priorities and strategies, and these have
              been incorporated within the improvement plan.

8.3           Legal Implications
              Under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999, the Audit Commission
              may carry out inspections of an English best value authority’s compliance with
              this duty. The inspection framework enables an overall view to be formed of the
              performance of councils and their arrangements for improving their services to
              the public. As part of the White Paper ‘Strong and Prosperous Communities’,
              the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) will assess the prospects for the
              local area and the quality of life for local people. Achievement of the actions
              within the improvement action plan will contribute to judgements made.

8.4           People Implications

8.5           Property Implications

8.6           Consultation
              Consultation on a draft inspection report took place prior to the publication of
              Appendix 1. Many of the suggested comments have been incorporated within
              the body of the report. A challenge made by the Council on the scoring of the
              Capacity theme was subsequently rejected by the Audit Commission. The
              report itself suggests opportunities for improvement by enhancing engagement
              with all communities. Actions within the improvement action plan reflect this.

8.7           Equalities Impact Assessment
              The inspection report and related improvement action plan incorporates equality
              and diversity implications including: actions to improve engagement with all
              communities; services that respond to the needs of all communities; and
              priorities that reflect the needs of all groups.

8.8           Risk Assessment
              There are risks associated with not taking action on recommendations or
              improvement areas. The risk occurring could have a major impact upon the
              reputation of the Council, and also the ability of the Council to access funding
              streams. The development of an improvement action plan, and related
              monitoring arrangements should both reduce the likelihood of the risk occurring,
              and give assurance that the actions are achieving the desired results.

8.9           Value for Money
              Taking action on the improvement areas will assist with the development of
              better services and a more responsive council, providing enhanced value for
              money. The Corporate Assessment Inspection Report itself recognises the
              Council’s increasing focus on improving value for money. Value for Money will
              continue to be assessed as part of the annual Use of Resources assessment.

8.10          Community Safety Implications

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8.11          Environmental Impact

9.            Background Papers

10.           Appendices
              Appendix 1 – Audit Commission Corporate Assessment Report May 2008
              Appendix 2 – Corporate Assessment Improvement High Level Action Plan May

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