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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 3, line 6, at end insert ("and sustainability")

The noble Baroness said: We seek to include the concept of "sustainability" in this clause although it is sometimes hard to separate it from the other concepts we spoke of when speaking to the previous amendment.

Ever since the Rio summit the concept of sustainability has too often been paid a huge amount of lip service but little is actually done to implement it. Local authorities were a key element in the Local Agenda 21 initiative. They sought to offer community leadership. They have to deliver the services and they have to initiate practical action locally and encourage the communities they serve to do so too.

If we leave sustainability out of this Bill we shall have said many nice things about it but we shall just have tinkered around the edges of it. It will not be put at the heart of service delivery and community plans. As regards trying to initiate the Local Agenda 21 proposals, sustainability must be at the heart of that process. When we discussed informally in this room the question of why sustainability might not be included in this Bill the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that was because this Bill is about the concept of process and not the concept of outcome. However, sustainability must be part of the process. If you prevent it from being part of the process, it is most unlikely to be part of the outcome. That is certainly something which I have discovered as a councillor considering how to include the concept of sustainability in everything that the authority in question addresses. It has to be there from start to finish. To exclude it from the concept of best value is to relegate it to the status of something to which we pay lip service but do little to implement.

We have to take account of the fact that there are sometimes crucial conflicts between value for money and sustainability. We must at least give sustainability an equal status with other measures when we assess what a local authority is expected to do. I come back to the performance indicators; sustainability has to be included as one of the crucial indicators. If that is not done, there will be conflict and a balancing act will have to be undertaken as between economy, efficiency and sustainability. That conflict exists because economy and efficiency will often be easier objectives to achieve in the short term while sustainability is frequently a long-term objective. Performance indicators of short-term objectives will simply not be relevant to those matters which ought to be considered as longer term objectives. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: I warmly support my noble friend's remarks. I was disturbed to read a Written Answer in the House of Commons' Hansard on the

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subject of environmental appraisals undertaken by the Minister's department on various Bills, including this Bill. The Written Answer stated,

    "No environmental appraisal was undertaken of the Local Government Bill as its content has no direct implications for the environment. The Bill deals with local management and financial issues."--[Official Report, Commons, 4/5/99; cols. WA 308 and 309.] I need hardly say more!

Lord Whitty: Perhaps I may correct an impression that the noble Baroness clearly has of my previous remarks. I was trying to make an intellectual distinction between process and outcome. At the end of the day this Bill is very much about outcomes as we wish to improve outcomes for local authority services, including those in the sustainable development area. It is the way of getting there that best value describes. I have no quarrel at all with the importance that the noble Baroness through this amendment attaches to sustainable development. This is probably the most significant challenge to the current generation of politicians which is why in the Local Agenda 21 strategy we have asked all local authorities to mainstream sustainable development principles within all of their policies and programmes. This is neither simple nor easy to deliver on the ground, but we expect authorities to give expression to those principles, primarily through the process of community planning, in engagement with the other players in that arena. We are engaged in a reassessment of planning and we will want local authorities to play a major role in that process as leaders of their communities. That new duty will place sustainable development at the centre of community planning, and in that arena we remain committed to bringing forward such legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

That is an outcome. Best value on the other hand is about delivering those sustainable policies and outcomes in the most efficient and effective manner. We need to be clear about this. We intend to legislate in due course to give local authorities a duty to promote economic, social and environmental well-being, and the powers to deliver that. Once that is clearly established, the duty of best value will apply to that as well. Sustainable policies will lead to the desired outcome, which will have to be delivered efficiently and effectively in accordance with the principles of best value. In that timescale we would expect to see indicators develop which enable progress of sustainable development to be assessed, both in relation to local authorities' activities as a whole and in relation to particular areas.

It is therefore important that we make this distinction. Sustainability runs through our whole approach to the strategies which we expect local authorities to develop and the outcomes which we wish to see them achieve. The criteria for best value include ways of best meeting those outcomes, but they are criteria related to the way of delivering those outcomes and not the outcomes themselves. I seek to reassure the noble Baroness that sustainable outcomes and sustainable developments are central to our whole strategy in what local authorities should be delivering for their communities.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his reply. I feel most strongly about this

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subject, as do we all on our Benches, as in spirit do the Government. But I say again that we will want to press this matter further given the fact that, unless it is included as a fundamental duty on local authorities, I feel that it will always be the poor relation when conflicts arise as to where their first duty should lie. I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 3, line 6, at end insert--
("( ) For the purposes of subsection (1) public authorities working in partnership with a best value authority shall be subject to the duty under this section.")

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 13 proposes that, for the purposes of the general best value duty, public authorities which work in partnership with a best value authority will be subject to the same duty. I appreciate that the Bill is designed for bodies which are within the local government finance system, which is not just local authorities, but I am concerned to know how such functions as are carried out by best value authorities in partnership with other bodies will be affected by the legislation. I realised last night that perhaps I should have made it clear that the amendment was limited to the occasions when public authorities work in partnership and did not provide a general duty extending beyond that partnership. But I am sure the Minister will understand that that was the thrust of the amendment.

We could all list a number of occasions when best value authorities will work with other public bodies; for example, health services working with hospitals and others; the requirement for health services and social services to be provided in a co-ordinated and sensible fashion; local authorities working with regional development agencies; the whole matter of economic regeneration; or local authorities working with the Home Office in relation to provision for refugees. They will discuss particular types of service delivery, the field of community safety, and environmental sustainability.

Clause 5 requires best value authorities to consult with "commercial and other businesses". That may provide an opportunity to ask whether those include quangos. In any event, the duty of consultation on best value authorities does not place a duty on other bodies. I am aware that it is the Government's longer-term ambition that all public sector bodies should comply with best value principles. This amendment would help to make collaboration through public sector partnerships an explicit part of best value. It must be sensible to attempt to achieve consistency of approach in setting out community objectives for best value and in progress reports; my noble friend has twice referred to performance indicators; and accountability for the eventual outcome.

Finally, perhaps I may offer a concrete example. What will happen if the policy and performance indicators of the Probation Service on youth crime prevention are not aligned with those of social services

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and health services on closely allied subjects. This may not be precisely the amendment to achieve what we seek, but consistency across service delivery, notwithstanding the identity of the partners, is a very important matter.

I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I support my noble friend in this amendment. While serving at the same time on a local authority and a hospital trust board, I became very aware of the different approaches, even to financial management, that were incorporated in those two bodies.

Under the health Act that we took through this House some while ago, we discussed the matter of collaboration between NHS bodies and local authorities. At that time I raised my worry that there were considerable difficulties in the culture and approach of the two organisations. Collaboration must take place at two levels: first, at the planning level, when health services for a whole area are jointly planned; and secondly, at the delivery level.

Perhaps I may refer briefly to the Minister's reply to Amendment No. 8 as regards fairness. Fairness could be a very important criterion in determining the best way to organise services. In the field of long-term care, for example, in many places it is presently extremely difficult for those in residential care homes to receive any kind of medical services except those provided by their local GP. They cannot receive physiotherapy, for example, as they would be able to if they were living in their own home and physiotherapists were available. It is a question of resources. There are very few physiotherapists, because physiotherapists, indeed therapists in general, are not high on the list of priorities for national health bodies. But when considering long-term care for disabled or elderly people, they become very important elements in their care package. We are in danger of not assisting in bridging the gap unless the Bill makes some effort to encourage those authorities that are not covered by local government finance provisions to take the same kind of approach as their partners in local government will adopt.

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