Hidden costs in Best Value[QQ] There are significant cost implications for local authorities and other public sector bodies in responding to the new Best Value culture, not least of additional payment to the Audit Commission’s Best Value Inspectorate Teams. These have to be contained in order that the cost of purchasing advice needed does not impact on the provision of services. Clearly where external consultancy services can best assist their clients is in offering a range of services which are in themselves ‘cost effective’. One clear area is to offer ‘mentoring’ services on specific Best Value Reviews – the right quality of specialist professional advice at key stages of reviews. This will require consultancy firms to demonstrate that they can offer individuals: relevant professional qualifications, operational experience, senior management experience, current up-to-date knowledge of sector and industry developments and legislation as well as business acumen. I believe services focused in this area could well prove to be, in the long run, the best business generator for consultancy firms, and represent the best value for the public sector in bringing in external assistance. Graham Aitken, Cheshire Ignoring laws and filing late With ever more large industrial and commercial groups falling into foreign ownership, it is disconcerting, to put it politely, that some fail to honour our laws by filing accounts of UK subsidiaries blatantly late. To quote one example, a huge German quoted conglomerate with a UK subsidiary with a December year end had not filed its 1998 accounts by 8 March 2000 in spite of previously receiving a three-month filing extension. It is timely for all public limited companies – including their foreign equivalents – to be required to file accounts of UK subsidiaries within seven months of the year end. Derisory transgression penalties should be increased substantially and consideration should be given whether relevant auditors should also be fined or required to resign. Martin Simons, London Environmental hazards Two years ago the environment minister Richard Caborn proposed a special tax on countryside land when it was re-zoned to building land. This was to encourage more urban (brownfield) development. However, high ranking accountants and surveyors condemned it as impractical and doomed to failure like previous Labour government attempts to introduce such a tax. But are they right? Previous attempts have been based on taxing all types of development gain, urban and rural. They failed, I believe, because they were too complicated. If the tax that the minister considered was levied once a planning structure plan was legally adopted, re-zoned land could be valued on the basis of that plan and an appropriate tax, say 80%, levied on its entire new value. It could be a charge on the land concerned. The reason we need such a tax is not just to encourage the development of brownfield sites. It is because the accrual of billions of pounds of profit every year to the countryside landowners concerned is unjust. If such land was taxed at, say, 80% of its new value it would, in addition to encouraging more brownfield development, address this injustice. The tax revenue raised of #2 to #3bn a year could be applied to increasing the incomes of those least able to afford a home. John Freeman, London All letters should be sent to: The Editor, Accountancy Age, VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London W1A 2HG Tel: 020 7316 9236 Fax: 020 7316 9250 Or e-mail us on: email@example.com Accountancy Age reserves the right to edit letters for space or clarity. Please include your title, company name and a daytime telephone number.