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Hansard 26 July: Column 69 ...
Hansard 26 July: Column 69

The Local Government Bill completed its parliamentary stages - under a strict government-imposed timetable - without a vote. Most amendments from the lords were adopted - but there were concerns from opposition MPs about the cost of best-value inspections and the creation of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate.

The Local Government Association and peers from all parties can claim that the government must now consult with representatives of best-value authorities - including the LGA and other authorities - on performance indicators and standards.

Former Conservative minister Paul Beresford, while supporting any moves to improve value for money and efficiency, questioned the spawning of another inspectorate. He asked local government minister Hilary Armstrong to write to him telling him what the increase in costs and staffing would be.

Ms Armstrong said: 'one of our main aims is to learn about and celebrate good practice and ensure that we spread that. The administration of housing and council tax varies considerably'.

The housing management and aspects of benefit that covered both the department of social security and local authorities were both part of the beacon council scheme this year, intended to spread good practice.

Sir Paul said the new inspectorate was uncosted. 'One local authority in London estimates that an auditor will spend 150 days a year on best value alone. That will cost£300 a day, which is£45,000 a year, half the cost of a new council house. If we multiply that by 33, for each London authority, we realise it will mean phenomal costs for London alone and, for some of the inspectorates, it is for some doubtful benefit'.

When the inspectorates arrived, the authority must allocate time for council officers to produce reports.

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