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Best Value proposals may have 'damaging consequences'

NEWS

LOCAL AUTHORITY contracts could prove increasingly unattractive to private sector firms after the Government introduces its Best Value regime next year, ICE past president and Whitehall advisor David Green claimed this week.

He told NCE that under Best Value proposals councils would assess contract bids using criteria such as equal opportunities, training levels and salary scales.

This requirement 'to take into account workforce matters in the selection of tenderers and the award of contracts' - revealed in a Government consultation document published this week - could 'undermine the transparency and robustness of the competition element of Best Value', according to Green.

He added: 'It will also hold back the development of markets.

Best Value is in danger of enhancing the security of the public sector which could have damaging consequences and undermine the whole concept.'

Best Value will replace Compulsory Competitive Tendering in the procurement of local authority contracts from April next year. The ICE past president became closely involved in the development of Best Value

as chair of an ICE taskforce, set up at the behest of Government.

This week's Government guidance also included a set of 'performance indicators' developed jointly by the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Audit Commission. These will be used to judge how effective local authorities are being in the delivery of services.

Essex County Council head of strategic performance review Bob Cooke said: 'Our main concern is that what we have seen coming from the Government has been a little bit simplistic.

'All these indicators would

do is give you an overall

indication of performance.'

ICE local government officer Robert Huxford said that performance indicators such as 'the cost of highway maintenance per 100km travelled by a vehicle on principal roads' were in danger of 'fudging the issue'.

He said: 'There are so many factors including variations in condition of the road, such as geological differences, traffic levels and climate. Relevant comparisons between local authorities would be very difficult.'

Copies of the BV guidance are available on (0870) 1226 236.

Damian Arnold

damiana@construct.emap.co.uk

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