This is the second report from a study examining the implementation and operation, since 1997, of new inspection regimes as part of the local government modernisation. The first report, External inspection of local government: Driving improvement or drowning in detail (JRF, 2001), compared practice across a number of different inspection regimes. This latest report has shadowed six case study inspections in order to identify what helps and hinders a "successful" inspection for both the inspected and the inspectors. The report concludes that recent developments in inspections within the Audit Commision are worthwhile, but suggests further work is required around citizen engagement. The author questions the cost-effectivenessm of inspection regimes and their ability to serve the dual role of guiding local services and providing accountability. The report also documents inconsistencies in inspection procedures across services and across the UK.