Examination of Witness (Questions 540-548)|
THURSDAY 11 JULY 2002
540. So if you have got a fairly disadvantaged
area where people are not all that good at writing letters and
on the telephone and litter is a major problem, how do you know
that exists other than possibly people writing in and complaining
about it to the council?
(Mr Kirby) Partly because at the moment there is measurement
and performance indicators about the cleanliness of the streets.
541. That is done by the local authority. How
do you inspect to see that those figures are not fiddled?
(Mr Kirby) We audit those figures.
542. Does somebody walk down a street? I am
interested because one of the local authorities I represent was
alleged to have done extremely well in terms of its streets cleaning.
I would say that as far as I am concerned it is utterly appalling.
All I can conclude from that is that your inspectors, when they
did that authority, did not go and look at what was happening
on the ground. What I want from you is the assurance in all this
that it is not your officers talking to the local authority which
telling them what they think you want.
(Mr Kirby) I thought I was answering a question about
the corporate assessment not the street cleaning.
543. The point is that in the end the corporate
assessment builds up what is happening on the ground.
(Mr Kirby) If we were inspecting street cleaning then
we would have focus groups with users, we would go out and look
at streets ourselves, take photographs, we would do trials where
we would report fly tipping, and we would see how long it was
544. How does that work its way through into
the corporate performance assessment?
(Mr Kirby) If we have done a street cleaning inspection,
then the outcome of that would be fed into the judgment on environmental
services along with performance indicators, how well they have
done in their local transport plan and other measures, and will
be one aspect adding up to
545. So somebody has stood at the bus stop for
the local transport plan and seen whether what is in the plan
is actually delivered on the ground?
(Mr Kirby) There is monitoring of local transport
plans in terms of delivering against targets people were set.
This year's monitoring
546. I am not asking you that. It seems to me
it is fairly easy to fiddle the figures that you produce for your
inspections. What I want to know is how far do your inspectors
get down to looking on the ground as to whether the basis on which
this corporate assessment is being done is based on reality or
(Mr Kirby) When we do a service inspection we do a
whole range of what we call reality checks
547. That is not what you are doing. You are
telling us in this instance you take the existing figures because,
quite rightly, you are telling us the whole of this exercise is
based on two assumptions, one that we must not do many more inspections
and certainly must not add to the burden of local authorities
and, two, when we get the assessments done in the various areas
we then use those as a base on which we take all these subsequent,
but tremendously important, subjective judgments because although
you will say, and have said consistently, it is the councils that
do this assessment, it is the councils that produce the inspection,
and if they do not agree with the inspection they can object at
any point in the first and second round, nevertheless the reality
is that it is those figures, however they are applied, that you
then take to make a subjective judgment.
(Mr Kirby) What we are doing in each of the service
areas like environment is, to use a piece of jargon, to triangulate
the evidence so there will be performance indicators and we audit
those. There are risks about using any of these. We have performance
indicators. There will always be an inspection where we have carried
out reality checks.
548. On every single authority?
(Mr Kirby) In each of the service areas that we are
reporting on there will be an inspection around environment, housing,
social services, education, benefits, so we will not report a
judgment on a service area unless there are audited performance
indicators and an inspection which has looked in some detail at
the service and we would usually like to combine that with another
judgment like, for example, progress on government plans and targets.
Chairman: I am afraid we are going to have to
close it at that. Thank you very much for your evidence.