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SCOTS CCT PLAN AN 'ASTONISHING CLIMBDOWN'

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Scottish councils regard a Scottish Office announcement that the moratorium on CCT could be phased out from 1 Febru...
Scottish councils regard a Scottish Office announcement that the moratorium on CCT could be phased out from 1 February 1997 as a face-saving exercise with little chance of implementation.

Last month Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth was forced to give a court undertaking to abandon his plans to impose the reintroduction of CCT in January 1997 - rather than the previously agreed date of July - after South Lanarkshire Council won leave for a judicial review.

But local government minister George Kynoch last week announced that a consultation process would begin soon on phasing CCT back in between February and July 1997.

'I have in mind very small contracts - those under £25,000 in value - and relatively small ones - those under £200,000 in value,' he said.

'On the face of it, it seems not unreasonable that some or all of these contracts could be let earlier than 1 July.'

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities president Keith Geddes said the timetable was almost impossible since the consultation period was not due to end until 9 September.

The original CCT start date of July 1997 had been selected as the earliest practicable date by former Scottish secretary Ian Lang after a lengthy period of consultation.

'It is very unlikely that local authority managers, already heavily overburdened by reorganisation, will be able to put the new systems in place, even for the smallest contracts, before 1 February next year,' said Mr Geddes.

He said Mr Kynoch's latest announcement represented little more than an 'astonishing climbdown'.

Privately, Scottish councils point out it would be easy to ensure, if necessary, that contracts did not fall within the two thresholds proposed by Mr Kynoch.

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