HC Deb 13 March 2003 vol 401 cc26-8WS
The Minister for Local Government and the Regions (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

The Government have today published a circular on best value and performance improvement, containing guidance for principal local authorities about how to achieve best value and secure continuous improvement in delivering local services. It consolidates and replaces existing guidance.

The services provided by local authorities directly impact on everyone's quality of life. It is therefore vital that these services are delivered to a high standard, and in ways that are responsive to the needs of their users.

The circular emphasises the important role that best value can play in helping to drive up the quality of local services. It explains how authorities can make arrangements under best value to secure a well-trained and motivated workforce, to review performance effectively, and to use the annual performance plans to record their priorities for improvement and achievements.

It includes a code of practice on workforce matters in local government service contracts. The code will ensure that the provision of local services is not undermined by poor employment practices in respect of new joiners to contracted-out services. Partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors should be selected where these will drive up service performance standards, not in order to drive down staff terms and conditions.

Authorities should use the guidance to continue to challenge how services are delivered and look for new and innovative ways to deliver quality services.

Today, I am also laying an order requiring all best value authorities to consult recognised unions and employees' associations, and staff, when conducting best value reviews. This will ensure that better decisions are made, increase understanding of the reasons for those decisions, and help authorities achieve continuous improvement in service delivery.

Copies of the circular have been placed in the House Libraries.