HC Deb 07 January 2004 vol 416 cc247-8
5. Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con)

How much best value and comprehensive performance assessments have cost (a) district and (b) county councils in the last year; and if he will make a statement. [145888]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Phil Hope)

We do not gather information about the costs incurred by local government on best value or comprehensive performance assessments. To do so would be an additional burden on local authorities. However, recent findings from independent research show that best value reviews are helping authorities to deliver improved services. The second year of comprehensive performance assessment results announced by the Audit Commission show real improvement in councils' performance.

Mr. Cameron

Is the Minister aware that, in West Oxfordshire, best value and CPA have cost the council £600,000, the equivalent of £13 on a band D council tax bill? That compares with the £60 at which the authority set the total council tax—the second lowest level in the country. Does he agree that every council should find out the cost of these things and put them on the front of a council tax bill so that everyone can see how much they are paying for centrally imposed red tape and bureaucracy?

Phil Hope

I think that we have all seen the latest Tory list of meaningless platitudes about bureaucracy, and what people remember is the Tory record of Tory cuts—the Tory poll tax and Tory attacks on local councils. Oxfordshire has had an increase of 7.3 per cent. for next year, and we expect it to budget prudently and to keep its council tax down next year.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab)

Has the Minister been informed that only this morning Northumberland county council in my area announced the closure of all its local authority old people's homes? Is that best value or Labour's best value?

Phil Hope

I understand my hon. Friend's concerns. It is important that local councils make a considered judgment about the way in which to provide the best services for local people. It is up to those authorities, in consultation with local people, to decide on the right way forward. If my hon. Friend has particular concerns about his constituency, I am happy to write to him about them. I can tell him, however, that local councils are providing better services to older people than they have ever had in previous generations, particularly under the Tories, who imposed cuts and compulsory competitive tendering on every council in the country.