The role of local government accountants is set for permanent changebly changed. with the implementation of the best value regime, a senior Audit Commission officer has said.
Bob Chilton, the commission’s director of local government studies, said best value would bring together services and financial planning, and accountants should not be pessimistic over the future, following abolition of compulsory competitive tendering.
‘With greater control over money, the role of the accountant in local government gains a focus it has not had,’ said Chilton. ‘It’s an opportunity for councils to show their mettle.’
The comments were made at the launch of the commission’s latest guidance on best value, which offers officers practical implementation advice, based on feedback from pilot projects.
The commission has urged councillors and senior managers to get more involved in developing decision-making structures that deliver the best services to the community.
‘Local authorities must get their political and management arrangements right, particularly with councillors, who should take the lead in best value,’ Chilton said. ‘Performance plans will be crucial, making clear to the public what the authority is going to do.’
The Local Government Association welcomed publication of the Local Government Bill, but warned there was some disappointment among authorities that it did not cover more of the agenda for improvement and reform.
Until the Bill’s proposals, including the abolition of CCT, are passed by parliament, the commission is unable to define best value’s exact framework.
But it maintained the government’s intention is quite clear – councils must aim to improve their weakest services first and challenge why and how each service is provided. Targets and performance indicators must also be set to enable comparison with other councils and allow improvements to be tracked.
A best value discussion website, established by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, can be found at www.barony.co.uk/bbs.
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