Social services departments are being chosen as key targets for
Best Value principles, according to a survey which shows they are
the most popular choice of London boroughs, shire counties and
The study of how councils are grappling with Best Value by the
Local Government Association also reveals that most predict it will
be easier to improve services and increase user satisfaction than
to improve staff morale or enhance public understanding of the
The surveys were completed by officers with lead responsibility
for Best Value in 249 authorities in England and Wales, with a
response rate of 63 per cent.
Authorities were asked what they believed to be the most
important outcomes of Best Value.
Increased user satisfaction was ranked as most important by 86
per cent of respondents followed by the provision of higher quality
services at 82 per cent.
Just under half said it was very important that Best Value lead
to increased job satisfaction and more effective working with other
Senior officers and front-line staff had a more important role
to play in making Best Value successful than elected members, said
Other vital success factors were listed as adopting a "corporate
approach", effective performance reviews and linking Best Value to
Almost all the respondents expected to take great strides in
implementing Best Value over the next year. Nearly one fifth plan
to adopt the scheme throughout the authority.
The report states: "The survey findings suggest that there is
already a great deal of activity both within and outside the formal
Best Value pilot programmes set up by central government."
Partnership deal for voluntaries
Guidelines to improve relations between the voluntary sector and
the government will be issued over the next few days. A "compact"
for England and another for Wales will establish partnerships and
future commitments. Local compacts between councils and the
voluntary sector will follow.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations' chief
executive, Stuart Etherington, said charities were looking for a
"new dimension" to their relations with government. "The compact
has to nurture partnership but it should also reassure the sector
that its independence and diversity will be secure," he said.
Welsh voluntary organisations want more involvement in
formulating and delivering public policy. The Welsh National
Assembly is to have a voluntary sector scheme. Graham Benfield,
Wales Council for Voluntary Action director, said: "Inclusiveness
has been a buzzword of the devolution process and we're starting to
see what it will mean in practice."