Press Release: December 11, 2009
The report, based on in depth interviews with 10 local authority systems thinking leaders in recent weeks concludes that:
there is no evidence that inspection leads to better outcomes
it is hugely expensive, and
it saps the morale of staff, stifling creativity and innovation.
Following the criticism of the current inspection regime, the report goes on to say Without exception, the interviewees thought the Audit Commissions role should be greatly reduced.
25 SOLACE members responded to the initial call from the author, Paul Buxton, for evidence of the harmful effects of targets and inspection on services. This evidence informed the first report, published in 2008 called The Illusion of control which argued that inspection and targets do not give government real control of public services. The new report published today (attached) draws on in-depth interviews with 10 of the original 25 contributors on what government should do in place of central control via targets and inspection.
The report recommends in place of CAA, management consultant, Professor John Seddons controversial One Question approach to inspection. This approach asks one question of public sector managers, What measures are you using to help you understand and improve the work? The contributors argue this new approach would place much greater emphasis on measures that tell you how well you are doing against what matters to the customer.
The report concludes with a recommendation that central government should adopt two principles in its relationship with local government. The first of these is that inspection should be at the minimum to ensure financial probity and the safety of the public, in particular, vulnerable people and the second, local government should be free to set its own priorities within a much simpler national network of priorities.
The 10 interviewees call themselves systems thinking leaders because, as the reports says: they have all successfully deployed the Vanguard method invented by Professor John Seddon. Systems thinkers believe that rather than trying to meet targets and please inspectors, services should focus on understanding customer demand at the point of transaction, the capacity and capability to meet that demand and finding out where the waste in their system is.
The author of the report, Paul Buxton, welcomed the opportunity to present the findings to the LGA in response to their recent consultation on a new accountability framework for local government, Freedom to Lead. He says Ministers are looking for the alternative to targets and inspection and this report details how systems thinking would unleash phenomenal improvement and reduce costs at the same time. He also said I am not surprised that two Tory boroughs are quitting CAA.
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