HC Deb 29 March 1995 vol 257 cc642-3W
Mr. Thomason

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes that English local authorities which are to remain unchanged, following his recent decision on the recommendations of the Local Government Commission, will be required to extend compulsory competitive tendering. [17356]

Mr. Robert B. Jones

I am keen to see the benefits of competition brought to local people as soon as possible. It is now clear that many shire counties and districts will retain their existing two-tier structure, and these authorities are in a position to press ahead with the extension of CCT to further manual and white-collar services as soon as possible.

On 31 January, my Department sent a consultation paper to English local authority representatives which proposed bringing forward the implementation of CCT by up to one year from the timetable initially proposed in December 1993. I have considered carefully the associations' clear and cogent arguments for not imposing a timetable which may give rise to undue haste in implementing CCT, and decided to strike a balance between the concerns they have expressed and the need to maintain a rigorous timetable for CCT.

I therefore intend to require all authorities which are to remain unchanged in both functions and boundaries following review to advance the timetable for implementing CCT extension by six months. I will bring forward regulations to require these authorities to have achieved their competitive tendering obligations for each of the new services by the following dates: Security work, management of vehicles and management of parking: 1 April 1997 Legal and construction and property services: 1 October 1997 Finance and personnel services: 1 April 1998 IS/IT services: 1 April 1999

Any other shire authority which is to change either its functions, by becoming a unitary authority, or its boundaries, including minor changes in boundaries but not including the creation of new parishes within their area, will be expected to follow the timetable for each service which applies to reorganised authorities. For legal, construction and property and the further manual services these dates are already provided for in regulations. The detailed regime for the other services is currently subject to consultation and I will announce final decisions shortly.

A number of authorities have expressed concern about the implications for the CCT timetable of the further review of individual districts. In announcing his decisions on the review of shire authorities on 2 March at column 1183 and 21 March at column 145, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he was minded to ask the Local Government Commission to consider further the case for change in a small number of districts. We will consider carefully over the next few weeks which areas might be reviewed further and I anticipate an announcement will be made at the end of June. When that announcement is made I will put forward proposals for further modifying the implementation timetable for CCT extension in the areas to be considered by the Commission. Until then, all shire authorities for which no decision to implement structural change has been announced should plan on the basis of the timetable that I have set out. The additional preparation time now permitted should mitigate any delay caused by individual authorities' uncertainty as to whether they are candidates for a further review.