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Voluntary Competitive Tendering (VCT) can bring more benefits to local authorities than Compulsory Competitve Tende...
Voluntary Competitive Tendering (VCT) can bring more benefits to local authorities than Compulsory Competitve Tendering (CCT), giving rise to a real partnership with the private sector, said Environment Minister Tony Baldry today. CCT has brought substantial cost savings for local authorities and sharpened up their approach to the delivery of public services, and many of them are now tendering their services voluntarily, especially in the field of white-collar services. Addressing a seminar for Rank Xerox managers and local government officials, Mr Baldry said:

'Building on what had already been achieved in putting blue-collar services out to CCT, the Government declared its intention of extending the range of services open to competition, to include a whole range of local authority professional and corporate services - ranging from housing management and engineering to legal and IT services. Competition is the right approach, and management skills in both the public and private sectors can be used to find new approaches and innovative solutions.

Improved technology is, and this seminar recognises, just one of the ways this can be achieved. For white-collar services, we want a flexible regime that is both rigorous and challenging and works on the ground. A proportion of each new service will be subject to competition, it will be for the local authority to choose which elements it puts out to tender. This proportion must be sufficient to challenge all authorities, but without eating away at the core of expert staff they must retain to function effectively.

'We have held detailed discussions with both local authority representatives and those from the professions about the practical aspects of implementing CCT for these new services. We will be consulting all interested on our proposals very shortly. Legislation will be in place in the summer for these services.

'We are already seeing productive thinking going on, and new approaches being suggested. Some authorities will be starting competition later than others because they will have to deal with the changes flowing from local government reorganisation first. Local government reorganisation will provide an opportunity for authorities with new responsibilities to think out from the beginning what kind of organisation and services they want. Many authorities, realising the benefits of competition, will want to push ahead and start to get things under way.

'I have heard authorities say that any arrangements that are entered into voluntarily have more benefits to the authority compared with compulsion. They can engender a real partnership with the private sector. If this is indeed the case, I would like to see as much of this as possible going on now. I consider that the opportunity is available to all authorities. I recognise the significant steps being taken by many authorities to market test their white-collar work, and to create partnerships with external contractors. I welcome these steps. There is nothing to stop authorities going ahead with this. It shows a business-like approach that is to be encouraged. Ministers have given assurances that in extending compulsory competition, we shall take into account what has already been done by many authorities and will endeavour not to hamper.'

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