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WELSH SECRETARY WANTS COUNCILS TO TEST BEST VALUE

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The recommendations of a joint Welsh Office and Welsh Local Government Association report on how one of the governm...
The recommendations of a joint Welsh Office and Welsh Local Government Association report on how one of the government's major commitments for local government should be developed and tested in Wales have been accepted by Welsh secretary Ron Davies.

The report presents a framework for evaluating the idea of best value in Wales. It recommends that every local authority should begin operating on best value principles from April 1998 and be involved in the process of testing the concept before it becomes law - possibly in April 2000.

Mr Davies said: 'Best value is an essential part of my drive to improve services and encourage better value for money in Wales. It will require local authorities to build on existing best practice to deliver the quality of service that local people expect, at a price they are willing to pay.

'Local authorities have a unique opportunity to come forward with ideas for testing the proposals prior to legislation. They will also have a chance to demonstrate that best value has the capacity to deliver worthwhile improvements in services and efficiency over the next two to three years.'

The project group recommends that best value is achieved when services:

-- are responsive to the changing needs and expectations of local people

-- meet measurable, regularly improved and affordable targets

-- are provided at demonstrably competitive prices

In due course, a duty on local authorites to achieve best value will replace the current arrangements for compulsory competitive tendering.

Mr Davies said: 'This ambitious objective can only be achieved through a partnership approach with local government. Local authorites must feel ownership for the idea and committed to achieving its goals.

'It is in this spirit that the initiative is being taken forward in Wales. The Welsh Local Government Association has given its enthusiastic welcome to the proposals and has played a major part in devleoping them in partnership with the Welsh Office and representatives of the Wales TUC, CBI Wales and the Audit Commission.

'I recognise that testing best value will overlap with the efforts that councils are making to re-introduce CCT in Wales; but it is essential that we do not ease up on the pressure to secure further efficiencies while the development of an alternative to CCT is being tested.

'However, I will review the progress that councils are making with best value during the course of 1998 and make a judgement at that time on the case for adjusting the current approach to implementing CCT in Wales. There can be no presumption that the current arrangements will be revised.'

-- Councils and police and fire authorities in Wales are now being asked to submit proposals by the end of October for testing best value. Those that meet agreed criteria will be invited to join a formal programme for evaluating the recommended framework.

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