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POSITIVE RESULTS - BEST VALUE IS ABOUT MORE THAN COST

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Says Jon Sutcliffe, senior research officer, IDeA. ...
Says Jon Sutcliffe, senior research officer, IDeA.

While the estimated costs of best value (LGC, 30 June) undoubtedly made good reading, some of the elements, such as consulting the public, would be undertaken anyway.

Other positive stories in the Improvement and Development Agency survey the article was based on are in danger of being missed. Respondents who completed reviews said best value had really made a difference to quality, innovation in service delivery, user satisfaction and exchanging good practice.

The survey indicates best value is embedding itself within councils. Member involvement in best value now seems to be routine, with 88% of councils reporting their involvement in best value reviews. Three-quarters of respondents are satisfied with the arrangements for political oversight of the best value process. Just 3% of councils cited political problems in pushing ahead with best value.

New ways of working are developing. Networking among councils is commonplace with 70% of officers involved in some form of regional or national network for sharing best practice. More than 50% of counties and district councils that responded are involved in joint working on consultation.

Concerns about staff involvement seem to be being positively addressed. Two-thirds of respondents are providing best value training for managers and staff. The number of councils with staff charters has more than doubled, compared with this time last year, and 88% have formal arrangements for employee involvement in best value.

Where councils cite difficulties with best value it appears these relate to issues of cultural change. The most commonly cited problem is a difficulty with dealing with fixed mindsets. Cynthia Griffin, IdeA's director of best practice, says: 'The very fact authorities are concerned about their capacity to change is itself a positive reflection that they are grasping the best value agenda.'

While it is the costs of best value grabbing the headlines, the initial findings of the survey as a whole show best value is now being embraced across the whole of local government.

Frances Carter, head of best value at IDeA said: 'best value is the framework for the future of local government service delivery. There were bound to be initial investment costs associated with implementation, but over time service benefits and savings should outweigh these.'

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