Headlines: September 28th, 2001

A survey by the GMB union of staff working in local government housing, social services, education and environment found that over half respondents believe that Best Value is not delivering results. Many of the staff feel that Best Value actually means lowest cost and that it is a route to privatization.The staff view that Best Value is not delivering the expected greater efficiency or the hoped for value for money is shared to a large extent by Audit Commission Controller Sir Andrew Foster in his Best Value Annual Statement. Although he asserts that there is much to celebrate he warns that 60 per cent of councils were judged poor or fair. It is particularly concerning that the Audit Commission has judged that half the council services inspected are unlikely or not going to improve.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, the leading independent commentator on managing and accounting for public money, is also concerned about Best Value. Two weeks ago its President met Local Government Minister, Nick Raynsford, to discuss its progress ahead of the proposed White Paper.

Although Best Value has become the focus of concern, it is part of a larger picture. The GMB survey also revealed that 79% of respondents reported staff shortages in their services especially in social services and education. A third of respondents were not happy with their working arrangements and they cited the causes as more expected from less resources, increased pressure, poor management and longer hours. 76% of respondents said they are working more than 40 hours per week.