Statistics may never lie, though everyone knows they can be
economical with the truth. Everyone being managers and members. LA
leaders and chief executives struggle to persuade the local media and
a sceptical public that the authority should not be judged solely on
it league position.
Using a football analogy helps explain how things may not be as
simple as the league table would indicate. Take Manchester‘s
performance the league table shows them second only to Liverpool.
Examining the statistics behind City’s performance and we find they
have scored more goals than anyone and conceded fewer than everyone
except Liverpool. But this does not mean they have a very good defence
and a very strong attack. If you analyse their performance you find
they have a midfield that is so dominant the defence is rarely tested
and the free scoring forwards turn out to offer a very poor return on
the scoring opportunities created for them. In other words this is not
the clinical forward line or solid defence their stats would suggest.
Translate this into LA key performance indicators (KPI’s) the sectors
equivalent of goals scored and goals conceded.
Simple KPI’s can lead to an organisation being rated as,”good” when
anecdotal evidence from service users and staff does not support this.
For example the number of older people admitted to Care Homes and the
number of older people supported at home. Fewer people admitted to
Homes and more supported in their home than the national average would
help place a LA up the league. But if the reason for fewer admissions
was the lack of appropriate beds for people with dementia leading to
more people supported at home but with a support service spread too
thin to be able to provide adequate help then anecdotal evidence would
contradict the ,” good “ rating.
In other words a LA’s might not be doing as well as it’s league table
position would indicate conversely a LA may be doing better than it’s
KPI’s indicate. Which of course is why they are call indicators. They
indicate where further analysis is needed to get a fuller more
revealing understanding of what’s going on.
It would be understandable if this led councillors to put more weight
on the anecdotal evidence they hear in the course of meeting service
users and staff. But anecdotal evidence is by its nature a very
personal snap shot and not necessarily an accurate reflection of the
wider picture. The challenge for officers and members is to ask
questions to get the fullest most accurate picture. This is the role
of the scrutiny committee but to return to the footballing analogy all
too often it is seen as a forum in which officers defend whilst
members attack. If however it’s used to improve the game plan it will
lead to a better second half performance.
Blair McPherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk