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REPORT INTO NEWHAM LBC'S FIRST YEAR AS BEST VALUE PILOT

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An independent report into Newham LBC's first year as a government best value pilot authority shows how the authori...
An independent report into Newham LBC's first year as a government best value pilot authority shows how the authority's approach helped it get best value off the ground. The work was steered by a 'core team' which recently won a prestigious award* for its achievement.

The Open University Business School study of Newham's approach to best value - 'Towards best value' - shows how the team worked with departments across the council to deliver the new scheme. The report also explains how officers from services across the authority worked on best value within a strategic framework.

Newham is one of the few pilots reviewing all the council's activities, and the only one that aims to achieve this within three years. The issues around managing such an ambitious project will be of great interest to all local authorities as they gear up for best value.

Particular attention is paid to how Newham integrated the four Cs of best value - challenge, compare, consult and compete - into its approach. Case studies from service areas demonstrate what implementing best value involves.

Newham LBC leader Robin Wales said: 'Once again Newham is at the forefront of progress and innovation in the way we approach providing services to local people. There is no, single, 'correct' way to approach best value, but we hope other authorities will be able to learn from the lessons we have learned and which are described in this report'.

The best value pilot is an integral part of the council's policy to transform Newham - the place and the council - through a programme called 'Putting Newham on the Map'. The council's vision is to regenerate the borough so that by 2010 Newham will be a major business location where people chose to live and work. To make the vision a reality, the council knew it had to address the quality and cost of local services - best value helps it do that.

The report was launched at a seminar on best value held in London this week.

Notes

1. * Newham's best value core team won the Local Government Chronicle management team of the Year award.

2. 'Towards best value' can be ordered from Policy Information Network, 16 Park Street, London W1Y 3WD (tel 0171 222 6668, fax 0171 222 6669). It costs£25 plus£2.50 p&p. Core team members are speaking at a series of workshops on best value. Details of these are also available from Policy Information Network.

3. Best value aims to ensure that:

* the quality and cost of local services reflect what local people want and can afford

* the efficiency and quality of services continually improve

* councils aim to reach the highest standards.

Or, as Newham council wrote in its application to become a best value pilot authority: 'Best value is a means to lever real change in real people's lives and to show that public service works for people and not for itself'.

For councils such as Newham, best value is also providing an opportunity to change both the image and the reality of not just service delivery, but also the way the council is managed.

They will have to report back to local people on how well services are delivered, how well they meet the targets the council has set, and how well their performance compares against that of comparable organisations.

4. Newham is on target to achieve its target of a 10 per cent improvement in quality and a 5 per cent cost saving. The Year 1 savings will amount to£7.3m each year, once the plans are fully implemented in 2000/01.

5. Using its own basket of key national indicators of performance, Newham ranked 31st out of 33 London boroughs in 1995/96, but has recently improved to 3rd (Audit Commission 1999).

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