Improvement agency put forward for Scotland

18 Nov 99
An improvement agency covering the whole of the public sector in Scotland could be set up, following the publication next month of a report by the Best Value Taskforce.

19 November 1999

The report is expected to put forward the idea of a Service Improvement Agency covering local government, central government and the NHS in Scotland. This would fit well with plans to widen the coverage of Best Value north of the border.

The new body would be similar to England's Improvement and Development Agency (IDA) in its approach, with public bodies voluntarily deciding to call in a team of experts to perform a 'health check' on their services. However, it would go well beyond the IDA's local government remit.

Bill Howat, the convenor of the taskforce, told Public Finance that a public sector-wide agency was an option. But he emphasised that existing networks could also be 'tweaked' to provide the same service.

'The consultation shows there was a clear consensus that an improvement function is essential, but there was less consensus about how this can be achieved,' he said.

Oonagh Aitken, the chief executive of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said the establishment of an agency with a Scottish 'brand' would allow people in local government to learn from their counterparts in the NHS and central government.

'If you were at a council which wanted a team to come in to give it a health check, it would be interesting to involve somebody from a health board or trust. That kind of system spreads expertise across the public sector,' she said.


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