Controller of the Audit Commission Andrew Foster is using gatherings of party activists in Bournemouth and Brighton to warn that the process could turn into a hugely wasteful burden if merely ‘bolted on’ to existing arrangements.
Local authorities are being required to draw up five-year Best Value plans, which will be audited, and report each year on how well they match up to the plans and proposing future corrective action.
Foster is making it clear he believes the best authorities will work with officials sent out by the Commission to monitor developments, rather than place themselves in a position where the government or the scrutineers decide how Best Value must operate within their authority.
He will speak this week at the Labour conference, addressed the Liberal Democrats last week and will deliver the same plea to the Tories next week.
His view is that the best authorities will incorporate Best Value requirements within their own decision-making and management processes in order to avoid it becoming an expensive add-on.
He told the Liberal Democrats: ‘This is a process you can use to further develop your engagement with the community.’
Local authorities should ‘customise it for the requirements of your authority’, warning: ‘Those who regard it as an encumbrance that is bolted on will regard it as a burden,’ he said.
He insisted: ‘There is a possibility of making Best Value work for you and your local citizens. It does not have to be a dead weight of bureaucracy.’
But Foster admitted that there were cost dangers in the increasing number of inspections facing local authorities and invited councils to apply the same pressures to the Audit Commission to keep costs down.
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