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'Best value' in practice
Forty local authorities were congratulated for making a real difference to their communities by Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong, at the November launch of two major studies on Best Value.
These studies, evaluating the progress of the Best Value pilots, set out for the first time what Best Value means in practice - improving the quality of life for local people.
The duty of Best Value requires local authorities to make arrangements aimed at securing continuous improvement in the way that services are delivered, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors and other public sector organizations are key elements in the drive to secure first class services and drive up standards for local people.
Speaking at the Best Value National Conference, Ms Armstrong urged councils to learn from these experiences in their preparations for the introduction of Best Value - just over four months away. Paying tribute to the pioneering work of the Best Value pilots she said:
The pilots have shown extraordinary commitment to making Best Value work. The interim evaluation by the Warwick Business School shows that most pilots have found Best Value a greater challenge than expected.
But what is a considerable challenge has also proved to be a major opportunity. Even at this early stage we are beginning to see real change. From Southampton to Sunderland, from Liverpool to Lincolnshire, Best Value pilots are bringing solid benefits to their local communities.
In a ringing endorsement of Best Value, Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a letter of support to conference delegates, said:
Best Value drives up standards, encourages innovation and promotes competition. It strengthens partnership by recognising the contribution made by the private and voluntary sector. Above all, ensures local people and local communities are put first.
Ms Armstrong added:
Best Value represents a tremendous opportunity for partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors. Research carried out by Newchurch & Company, shows that 44 per cent of authorities now have a policy or code of practice for partnerships. And more than 70 per cent of authorities are developing more partnerships with business and voluntary organizations than ever before. The message is clear - Best Value through partnerships is working now and working well.
Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chair of the Local Government Association (LGA), recognised the achievements already made and endorsed the partnership approach:
The LGA welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with the business and voluntary sectors, as well as our workforce in delivering Best Value. We believe that working together is the most productive way to make a difference to local communities and the services they receive.
Improving Local Public Services: Interim Evaluation of the Best Value Pilot Programme was completed by the Local Government Centre, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions. Copies are available for £12 from:
DETR, Publications Sales Centre, Unit 21, Goldthorpe Industrial Estate, Goldthorpe, Rotherham S63 9BL. Tel: 01709 891 319; Fax: 01709 881 673.
Local Authorities, Partnerships and Best Value - An Overview of the First Year is published by Newchurch and Company.
Copies are available from: Vicki Everett or Samantha Powell Newchurch and Company, 25 Christopher Street, London EC2A 2BB. Tel: 0171 422 0222; Fax:'0171 422 0234.