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Commission calls for clear guidance on Best Value

MUNICIPAL ENGINEERS are struggling to get to grips with the Government's attempts to introduce Best Value into local government procurement, it emerged this week They are confused about how to monitor the performance of Best Value regimes because of the lack of detail in guidance produced by the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions.

As a result the Audit Commission has asked the ICE led Best Value task force to produce detailed guidance to flesh out the DETR's performance indicators.

Task force chairman and former ICE president David Green said municipal engineers were 'struggling' to prove that procurement methods conform to Best Value criteria.

Local government spending watchdog the Audit Commission is to independently inspect the way councils conform to the 1999 Local Government Act which obliges local councils to scrap compulsory competitive tendering in favour of Best Value.

Under Best Value, councils are expected to award contracts on a combination of quality and price, instead of on price alone.

They then have to demonstrate to the Audit Commission that they are maximising value for money for services they procure.

Green said: 'Many local authorities are struggling to develop their own set of indicators because they lack experience in measuring performance in house and find it difficult to put one person up against another.'

Specific Best Value indicators for individual local government services are needed because of growing disappointment with the Government's set of 140 national Best Value performance indicators.

Councils are obliged to use the national indicators developed jointly by DETR and the Audit Commission, but they are said to be difficult to apply in practice because they are too broad.

Green said: 'The national indicators are so broad, they make it difficult to make practical comparisons between local authorities. They will not measure real efficiency and I don't think they are worth the paper they are written on.'

It is hoped that recent experience of engineers in trying to develop their own indicators since Best Value became law on 1 April will feed into the new guidelines to be issued in September.

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