In new draft guidance, published by the department of the environment and Welsh Office, a clear responsibility is placed on local authorities to show how their tendering practices are not anti-competitive.
Welcoming the new guidance, for which there will now be a period of consultation, Sir Paul said:
'I want to see local authority services that meet local needs, services that are efficient and cost effective, services that harness all the expertise of both the public and private sector.'
'I want a system that puts the onus on authorities to show they have acted fairly and sought to achieve the best possible value for money for local taxpayers.
'Councillors have a key role to play in overseeing the competition process and I would like to see them being more closely involved in CCT. A key proposal is that authorities should record the way in which decisions relating to CCT are made and report these to committees for members scrutiny.
'The new guidance will answer complaints from contractors organisations that local authorities haven't embraced the spirit of CCT. It will also address the concerns of local authorities that current guidelines are two restrictive and do not allow them to respond to local circumstances.
'We will still investigate rigorously complaints of unfair behaviour but we will be able to draw on committee reports and other documentation when judging how a particular contract was handled.
'We will continue to take firm action against any authority that acts unfairly, because without fair and open competition the local taxpayer is denied the benefits of competitive tendering.'
The new guidance moves away from the practice in previous guidance of listing examples of anti-competitive behaviour. Instead it sets out the principles of fair and open competition which authorities should follow.
How competition is conducted within the broad framework set by regulations and guidance is left largely for individual authorities to decide although they must ensure that they treat all potential contractors, whether from the private sector or the authorities own workforce in a fair and equal manner.
Adherence to the principles should enable authorities to be more positive in addressing competition issues of cost and quality in a way which is consistent with the way in which the market operates and which will produce a good competitive response.
Local authorities, local authority associations and trade organisations involved in CCT are being consulted and have until 15 December 1995 to respond.
A separate consultation paper for Scotland which takes into account minor differences in legislation, will follow in due course.
- The new guidance consolidates and replaces existing guidance contained in Circular 10/93 and separate white collar guidance issued in December 1994.