Whether in the private or public sector it is always useful to look at the way we work and whether services are delivered in the best way possible. It is the frequency of the requests that require local government provide these statistics that are used to adjudge whether councils are meeting certain standards that has become a problem. Performance management staff have become wise to these annual requests and now ‘know how to cook the books’.
Exactly the same statistics are often provided to different government departments/quangos and there seems to be no liaison/co-ordination/ information sharing between those who ask for the information. Data Protection is sometimes quoted quite wrongly as a reason for this.
Accountability comes at a cost and this needs to be borne in mind by central government. Yes, local government should provide feedback to central government on its duties, but not on the scale that is currently required. Meeting targets may fill in government tick boxes but it does not necessarily mean that good quality services are being delivered. How ratepayers feel about the services their council delivers is more a matter of personal perception.
The growth in performance management within local government can be attributed to the demands placed on it by central government. Cut some of the bureaucracy, red tape and target setting from central government and thereby reduce the unnecessary demands on local government finance. It will also free up the time of staff, particularly those within social care, to deal with those who need local government services the most.