21 November 2007

Measuring Local Quality Of Life

The BBC reports that "English regions are to get 'quality of life' reports on health, education, social care, housing and policing." Replacing the present Comprehensive Performance Assessment — which, annoyingly for the Government, has on average awarded Conservative councils a higher overall service score and a better performance rating than non-Conservative councils — the Audit Commission claims that the new Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) will provide:

"the first independent assessment of the prospects for local areas and the quality of life for people living there. It will put the experience of citizens, people who use services and local taxpayers at the centre of a new local assessment framework, with a particular focus on those whose circumstances make them vulnerable. This focus on outcomes for local people requires CAA to look across councils, health bodies, police forces, fire and rescue authorities and others responsible for local public services, which are increasingly expected to work in partnership to tackle the challenges facing their communities."
The recurrent emphasis is clearly on our "local" communities. And yet the whole shift in focus away from individual county councils towards regions sounds like a move in the wrong direction — indeed, a move towards the European-determined regions and unelected regional assemblies to which local councils have already lost so many of their previous powers and which, where our opinion has been sought, have been rejected by voters.

If the CAA were really to evaluate our quality of life, it would take the localism agenda far more seriously and use it, in the words of the Conservatives' recent Quality of Life Policy Group report, "to empower the very lowest of levels of government, nearest to the people whose lives they affect." For, without considering how distant the relationship has become between us, as citizens, and those in authority whose decisions (and given the current state of the government, one might add, mistakes) have such an impact on our well-being, there is no prospect that this will achieve its stated aim of acting "as a catalyst for improvement in the quality of life for citizens, the experience of people who use services and value for money for taxpayers."


The Stonemason said...

The key phrases in your extract above are obviously 'people who use services' and 'circumstances make them vulnerable'. This sort of wording enables the government to give added weight to the efforts of councils working in particular sectors of society rather than the whole cross-spectrum of life in that area. It becomes more of an audit of council backed social action than a real picture of life in that region.