At CWaC's cabinet today we discussed the council's performance metrics.
Whilst I fully accept that performance data is important we all have to be clear that what is being measured is real, relevant and informative. We also have to worry that whatever performance metrics are used that they do not have a distorting effect on performance. Then there is the danger of 'marking your own homework' - where the council sets its own targets and then judges itself against those targets.
A few examples:
The council has set itself the following targets on highway maintenance:
KPI: Maintain the condition of the highway network in a steady state – percentage requiring structural maintenance (annual measure, data available Q4).
A Roads - 1%; B&C Roads - 6%; U Roads 7%.
Now against this target the council has reported that those targets have been achieved. However the metrics show that the targets are to be relaxed. So the council will still give itself a 'green tick' in 2019-20 if 3% of A Roads, 8% of B&C Roads and 9% of U roads require structural maintenance. In other words managing decline will be considered to be acceptable. Personally to have 3% of A roads in need of structural maintenance is a worry... and if you live on the 9% of side roads that require structural maintenance - every time you drive you car along such a potholed road you won't consider the council deserves a 'green tick.'
I also worry about whether the use of such metrics can encourage unintended and indeed unwanted consequences. For example the council measures itself with regard to repeat referrals to children's care within 12 months. Ideally no one wants to have a repeat referral social care. Does the presence of such a metric encourage poor or inappropriate behaviours? Would an officer seek to delay a repeat referral to the other side of a 12 month boundary so as to ensure the data looked better? One sincerely hopes that this would not happen - however there are far too many examples within the wider public sector where exactly this sort of data manipulating behaviours have occurred.
The report highlights the declining performance with regard to patient/care delayed discharges. In other words the delays for a patient from leaving hospital to go into care. This is a complex area. CWaC isn't solely responsible for the delays - however the Cabinet member did recognise that the council was responsible for around 1/3rd of them. There are performance differences between the West Cheshire CCG area (most of the Borough and including Frodsham) and the Vale Royal CCG area (Northwich and Winsford). Largely this is the difference in approach taken by GPs in the CCG areas and by the Countess of Cheshire and Leighton Hospitals. CWaC tells me it adopts the same approach irrespective of which CCG is involved.
If you want to read the full metrics do look out the CWaC Cabinet agenda from today on the CWaC website.