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Best value provisions in Wales leave councils free to ignore open tenders as a test of a service competitiveness. ...
Best value provisions in Wales leave councils free to ignore open tenders as a test of a service competitiveness.

In England, the best value regime is widely understood to require that reviews of services should use 'open competition' unless the council can demonstrate it is inappropriate.

In Wales, however, councils have deliberately tried to make a distinction between inviting competition and demonstrating that a service is competitive.

The joint Welsh Office/Welsh Local Government Association framework document on developing best value says: 'Where appropriate, the competitive test will include an invitation to other organisations to tender for a service.'

However, local authorities are also invited to 'develop a range of tests of competitiveness appropriate to a variety of circumstances'. It was not clear what these alternatives to tendering might be.

External auditors must be satisfied that these alternative tests are 'robust and capable of delivering a service at a truly competitive cost'.

Paul Griffiths, head of corporate policy at the WLGA, said the document deliberately tried to work around the English assumption that the only test of competitiveness was open tender by requiring councils to be innovative in establishing a range of other tests.

'Open tender may in the end prove to be the only way of doing this, but the document invites councils to think of other ways,' he said.

The WLGA hopes to get pilots up and running before the end of the year. Applications for pilots are due in by 3 October and councils are expected to begin preparing performance plans in December (LGC, 19 September).

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