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NEW GUIDE CLEARS THE WAY FOR BETTER PUBLIC SERVICES

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Local authorities working to raise their performance were given a boost today in the form of a new practical guide....
Local authorities working to raise their performance were given a boost today in the form of a new practical guide.

The Guide to Quality Schemes and Best Value gives tips on how schemes such as the Charter Mark and Investors in People can be used to support the achievement of best value. It is published jointly by the Cabinet Office, the DETR and the Improvement and Development Agency.

As well as practical advice, the guide spreads best practice through case studies such as:

- The Property Management Services of Cambridge County Council found significant benefits from using the Excellence Model, Charter Mark and Investors in People during its early best value review. In particular, they achieved a 25% reduction in design costs and a 22% improvement in meeting target dates.

- Portsmouth City Council have integrated the Excellence Model into its framework for best value performance reviews. In the initial reviews carried our so far, staff have been very enthusiastic about the process. The council also use the Excellence Model to benchmark performance with similar local authorities.

- Wycombe DC, having brought together various quality initiatives (like Charter Mark) in its Quality Improvement Programme, found this greatly helped it to address best value. They see many benefits from the programme, including a noticeable boost to staff morale and an independent view of their services from external assessors.

Speaking at a best value conference in Ipswich, cabinet office minister Ian McCartney told local authority delegates:

'A recent report by the quality schemes task force showed a clear demand for comprehensive guidance. Local authorities were confused about the different quality schemes available, and needed a clearer understanding of how quality schemes fitted with other government policies, like best value.

'While quality schemes such as the Charter Mark, the EFQM Excellence Model, Investors in People and ISO 9000 cannot of themselves deliver best value, they can be a big help. The Excellence Model, which identifies strengths and areas for improvement, fits well with the review requirements of best value. The Charter Mark concentrates on service delivery. Investors in People will help you tackle staff training and development and ISO 9000 will assist with process issues.

'Successful examples of the use of quality schemes can be found throughout local government. The best public sector organisations innovate and improve. But all of us must strive to do things better, and spreading best practice, including the use of quality schemes, is one way of achieving the continuous improvement we seek.'

Hilary Armstrong, local government minister, welcomed the Best Value and Quality Schemes guide for councils. She said:

'By consulting local people and reassessing the way services are delivered, best value and Quality Schemes bring real improvements to local communities. They drive up standards and put local people first. Projects underway acrossthe country are making real improvements to the quality of life of local people.

'This guidance will help councils continue the drive for high quality services which the public have a right to expect and enjoy.'

NOTES

The Guide to Quality Schemes and Best Value will be available on the internet at www.servicefirst.gov.uk or from LGCnet on 0171 833 7324/5.

The Quality Schemes Task Force was set up in January 1999 to examine how the Charter Mark, the EFQM Excellence Model(, Investors in People and ISO 9000 can work together more effectively to maximise their collective impact on raising the quality of public services. The task force published its report on 8 February 2000. The report is available on the cabinet office website at: www.servicefirst.gov.uk.

The four quality schemes included in the work of the task force are:

- Charter Mark - a government award scheme which concentrates on the quality of the service that users receive. Of the 1669 current holders, some 600 of them come from local authorities.

- The EFQM Excellence Model(r) - a framework to help assess an organisation's performance, both in its results and the processes needed to achieve them, and identify where improvements are needed. Recent surveys show that over 40 per cent of local authorities that had completed best value reviews had made some use of the model.

- Investors in People - a standard relating employee development to organisational goals and performance.

- ISO 9000 - a tool to help organisations ensure that their processes and documentation enable them to meet their customers' needs.

Best value is one of the key means of delivering the government's modernising agenda in local government. Best value is defined as a duty to deliver services to clear standards (covering both cost and quality) by the most economic, efficient and effective means available. From April 2000 local, police and fire authorities will have a statutory duty to provide best value to local people, local taxpayers and the wider community.

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