Two green flags as city welcomes CAA findings

By on 09/12/2009 in News

Progress made by Birmingham City Council and partner agencies on tackling climate change and meeting the housing needs of citizens has been praised in the first-ever Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) of the city.

The CAA replaces the previous form of inspection carried out on English councils, which was known at the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA).

Under the CAA services are judged in two ways - the area assessment focuses on the prospects for better results and outcomes on local priorities for citizens, while the organisational assessment looks specifically at how the council is performing.

In the area assessment, Birmingham was awarded two Green Flags, one for tackling climate change and reducing CO2 emissions, the other for working in partnership to meet housing need.

Green flags are awarded when it is judged that there is exceptional performance or outstanding improvement in a specific area of work which others could learn from.

Red flags are awarded when the Audit Commission has “significant concerns about results and future prospects that are not being tackled adequately”. Birmingham has received one red flag, on the issue of 'returning home after a stay in hospital'.

On the subject of meeting housing need, the city was praised for improving the quality and choice of housing on offer to citizens, including those who are homeless. Partnership work with housing associations such as St Basil's and Family Housing Association is cited as being an example for other areas of the country to follow.

In terms of the effort to tackle climate change, inspectors said Birmingham stood out as one of the few places that had set out long term strategies (to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2026) and targets to make a positive difference on the agenda.

The report also says that while partner agencies such as the council and NHS are working to tackle health problems, which are big and challenging because of the city's size and diversity, there needs to be faster progress on this front.

It is recommended that more needs to be done to ensure there are a range of services on offer to keep people out of hospital or if they are admitted, that they are discharged as soon as possible - to avoid delayed discharges, a scenario better known as “bed blocking”.

Cllr Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council and Chairman of the Be Birmingham local strategic partnership, welcomed the findings of the area assessment of the CAA.

He said: “We welcome the Audit Commission's findings and are pleased that our effort to improve the lives of Birmingham citizens has been acknowledged with two green flags - in essence they are the equivalent of what would have been four star services under the old inspection regime.

“We also note the areas that have been highlighted for improvement, and as the report says, we have a determination and focus to address under performance, so will be putting every effort into gaining more green flags next year and losing the one red that we currently have.

“I am particularly pleased with the green flag for our work on climate change as I am personally responsible for this area as part of my broader portfolio. A lot of work has gone into this agenda, most notably the creation of a Birmingham Declaration on climate change, and the green flag adds to our already-strong reputation on the issue.”

Sophia Christie, Chief Executive, NHS Birmingham East and North, added: “We have come a long way in the last few years, but this is not yet good enough, and we understand why the Audit Commission have reported this as a “red flag” concern.

“We have introduced a range of new services in the last twelve months, including dedicated joint rehabilitation facilities, more rapid social care assessment and funding approval and hospital convalescent beds run by community health services, which are now making a real difference to positive patient experience and length of stay.

“We need to ensure this steady improvement continues and recent successes are sustained and become consistent across the city.”

In the organisational assessment, Birmingham City Council was given an overall score of 2 out of 4, which is also known as “performing adequately”.

The council was praised in the organisational assessment on several fronts including:

• An increase in adult social care clients receiving self-directed support
• Educational attainment is continuing to improve in line with the national picture and other similar areas
• More consumers now feeling confident when buying goods or services in the city
• Locally-based street cleansing teams helping exceed Birmingham's litter targets
• More affordable homes being built than originally planned - a significant achievement given the economic downturn
• The Council Plan clearly setting out the authority's strategic direction
• Its good use of natural resources
• The ambitious Business Transformation programme improving services and making savings
• Its strong focus on tackling under performance

Areas highlighted and identified for improvement or further improvement included:

• Health inequalities
• Child poverty in certain areas of the city
• Work to tackle unemployment
• Children's social care

Cllr Paul Tilsley concluded: “This is the first year of the new CAA inspection regime, so we will look at the report in detail and determine how we can best improve the services we offer at both an organisational and area level.

“The hard work put in by the council's workforce is valued and reflected in the green flags and many areas of best practice that have been highlighted by the authors.

“This publication will focus our efforts in the year ahead, which will be challenging due to the strains on public finances, but I am sure that our desire to achieve excellence will stand us in good stead when our services are next assessed.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) reported on how well a council was performing overall compared to other councils in England. It drew together information on auditors’ views, other inspectorate views, and the Commission's inspections of environment, housing and cultural services. It provided, for the first time, a judgement on a council’s corporate ability to improve services for local people and its leadership of its local community. CPA was introduced for single tier and county councils in 2002 and district councils in 2003.
2. From 2009, CPA has been replaced by the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA). CAA provides an independent assessment of how well people are being served by their local public services including councils, health bodies, police forces and fire and rescue services, working in partnership to tackle the challenges facing their communities.
3. Be Birmingham is the local strategic partnership for Birmingham that brings together partners from the business, community, voluntary, faith and public sectors to deliver a better quality of life in Birmingham.

Be Birmingham is committed to:
• Uniting Birmingham’s family of partnerships to provide a collective response to improving the social, economic and wellbeing of the city
• Engaging Birmingham citizens to inform the Birmingham 2026: Our vision for the future, the city’s sustainable community strategy
• Delivering Birmingham 2026
• Developing and implementing the vision’s delivery mechanism, the Local Area Agreement (LAA)

4. The Birmingham Declaration is a seven point list of actions which Birmingham City Council aims to deliver on by 2015 as part of its effort to reinforce the city's position as a national and international leader on the effort to tackle climate change.
5. Business Transformation is Birmingham City Council's ambitious nine-strand programme which aims to modernise and enhance services delivered across the whole authority to citizens. It is projected that the programme will realise benefits of more £1billion over the ten years to 2016.

For further information contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621

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