[This article was originally published in Planning Magazine, September 2007]

The world of local government is shifting on its axis and not just as a result of the sheer weight of paper coming out of central government. The emerging improvement culture is causing a substantial shift of its own.

Last year’s Local Government White Paper set out the foundations and direction for this new culture through a move to the outcome-focused Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) which moves away from the CPA inspection regime towards sector-led improvement. This means local government taking responsibility for identifying improvement needs and acting upon them. This is a significant sea change for local government, one that has substantial implications for planners. In this world, the role of peer review and peer support is central.

In the move from CPA to CAA, the outcomes to be achieved will be set out in the Local Area Agreement (LAA). The government’s concern about continued performance is reflected in the new National Indicator, NI157, which looks remarkably like BV109. Notwithstanding this, we need to ensure that LAA outcome targets include elements that give planners and the planning service the opportunity to demonstrate how they create real change in communities. If this can be achieved it will help put planning centre stage within central and local government’s delivery framework.

But are planning services ready to embrace this opportunity? How well do you know your service? Is it fit for purpose? And, could you identify your own areas for improvement and change without an inspector telling you?

Do you know where to access help to make change? Do you think you can embrace the sector-led challenge for service improvement? There is no choice although there is an opportunity for planning services to lead the way. If you are struggling to understand how to make this real have a look at the PAS self assessment benchmark tool on our website.

To find out more about how the services offered by PAS can help, visit

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