Task force offers Best Value advice

19 Oct 00
The chair of the body set up to examine how contracts are awarded under Best Value has reassured local authorities they will not have new regulations forced on them.

20 October 2000

Sir Ian Byatt, who heads the local government procurement task force, sought to allay fears that the review of councils' contracting procedures would lead to more Whitehall directives and increased paperwork.

He said the panel would draw up advice rather than regulations and stressed that the government had not asked it to be prescriptive in its final report. 'Our findings will be recommendations, rather than rules,' he said.

The former chairman of water industry regulator Ofwat made his comments on October 17 when he called on authorities to submit written evidence to the task force, which he was drafted in to set up last July.

The task force is a joint initiative between the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Local Government Association. Its remit is to conduct an overarching review of procurement systems and find examples of best practice.

Byatt emphasised that the process would be undertaken in collaboration with authorities and their representatives. 'It's important that this should be a joint review and not run by one side or the other.'

He said more work needed to be done to establish what was happening, and expressed confidence that councils would co-operate, revealing that 60% of authorities had already replied to an initial questionnaire sent out by the task force. 'There won't be a shortage of respondents,' he added.

Local government spends £13bn each year on directly procured goods and services but this is the first time the processes used to award contracts have been scrutinised.

The 11 members of the task force, who were drawn from across the public and private sectors and have experience of procurement, were named for the first time on October 17.

They include Ian Elliott, director of engineering at Severn Trent Water, Neil Argyle, associate director with the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency, and Mike Grealy, deputy director of finance at the LGA.


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