Headlines: October 6th, 1997

Over 150 local authorities are seeking Government backing for Best Value pilot projects. The projects from councils across the country are a response to the invitation from the Local Government Minister, Hilary Armstrong, to take part in finding a replacement for Compulsory Competitive Tendering.The new approach will impose a duty on councils to obtain best value for the taxpayer. The shift from CCT means that responsibility for deciding how to achieve best value will rest with the council, who will have to deliver results which include economy, efficiency, effectiveness and quality.

About 30 pilot projects will be selected from the 150 submitted. They are intended to deliver measurable improvements in the value for money for providing a range of services. The criteria for selection include good consultation processes, measurable results and a rigorous examination of options for delivery. The projects, which will run for 2-3 years, will provide an input to the policy debate which will precede the drafting of the new Best Value legislation. No additional funding will be provided to authorities for the projects. The Local Government Centre at Warwick University, headed by Steve Martin, has been awarded a research contract to evaluate the projects.

The pilot projects will be selected by an evaluation panel chaired by Richard Footit of DETR. Other members will be drawn from the Audit Commission, which will have the long term responsibility for evaluating the initiative, the private sector and the trade unions. The projects selected will be announced in December and they will start by April 1998.

The 120 projects which fail to obtain ‘pilot’ status are likely to proceed, but they will not be part of the research project. The main attraction for becoming a pilot is that it will lead to relaxation of CCT requirements, which will continue to be imposed on other authorities for the foreseeable future.