The Prime Minister is expected to warn councils they will receive tough penalties if they fail to speed up the adoption process.

David Cameron is expected to tell local authorities that they should be placing children with adoptive parents within a 12 month timeframe. Failure to do so could see their adoption services taken over by more effective councils.

According to the latest figures, children wait an average of two years and seven months to be adopted, with an average adoption age of three years and 10 months.

The Prime Minister's announcement coincides with the release of new performance tables, which highlight which authorities are doing well and which ones are struggling.

York currently has a 100 per cent placement record - meaning it placed all of its children within the 12 month timeframe, while the London borough of Hackney is the worst performing, having only placed 43 per cent of its children within 12 months.

Children's Minister Tim Loughton has also urged council's to perform better. He said: "If they're not taking notice of us around a whole range of areas in terms of getting more children adopted, speeding the whole process up, making sure they're doing better by children in care and their outcomes, then we will want to put a very strong spotlight on them and say 'are you really the right one to be running this service?'

"If not, we'll need to get someone in who is going to do a better job for children in the care system."

Posted by Robert Mair on 31 October 2011 at 1045.