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The speeded up reorganisation timetable has forced the government to delay by three years the introduction of white...
The speeded up reorganisation timetable has forced the government to delay by three years the introduction of white collar compulsory competitive tendering for districts and counties. The DoE this week published a consultation paper proposing that no English county or district will have to introduce competition for new services before reorganisation has taken place in their area or a decision has been taken that they will remain unchanged. The document also proposes councils should have to put 45% of their legal services work out to tender. The figure is more than the initial competition requirement (33%) suggested by PA Consulting in early advice to the DoE but less than the maximum of 70% floated more recently as an option by Coopers & Lybrand. A revised timetable now proposes a start date for legal services competition and construction related services CCT of October 1998 instead of the previous October 1995 deadline.

For information technology, finance, personnel and corporate and administrative services the start date is now April 1999 instead of October 1996. The earlier deadlines still apply to metropolitan councils. Announcing the consultation paper, Environment Minister Tony Baldry said the timetable changes were needed to reflect the accelerated reorganisation programme.

'We would not wish to see new authorities tied to inappropriate arrangements made by their predecessors, and I have therefore concluded we should not require authorities to implement CCT for their core white collar functions when a reorganisation is expected in their area', he said. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities welcomed the 45% competition requirement as better than it could have been.

'However the percentage is still too high', said AMA Secretary Rodney Brooke. 'Forcing nearly half of this key corporate council service out to tender not only creates a jungle of red tape when local authorities agree with the government in wanting to cut down bureaucracy, CCT could damage a council's abilities to maintain its core functions and lessen the amount of informed advice given to council members and their committees'.

A joint local authority association submission to the DoE had argued that no more than 35% of legal work should be tendered if core services are to be protected. Its report warned that a 45% requirement 'would put the viability of support for core services seriously at risk'. Councils have until 18 March to respond to the proposals which also include draft statutory guidance on anti competitive practices (LGC, 26 November).

A consultation document with detailed proposals for construction related services is due in the new year. The 45% competition requirement will also apply to Scottish councils, Scottish Local Government Minister Allan Stewart announced on Wednesday.

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