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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this issue. Amendment No. 43 is designed to add a specific reference to the voluntary sector to the bodies already listed in Clause 5(4)(e) against which the Secretary of State may by order require best value authorities to assess their competitiveness. Amendment No. 44 would add a specific reference to the voluntary sector to Clause 5(4)(f), which provides for consultation with,

However, I consider that neither amendment is necessary. The word "businesses" is construed as including non-profitable organisations so there does not, therefore, need to be a specific reference to the voluntary sector. Indeed, our interim guidance made it clear that the Government welcome the development of partnerships for service delivery which span and combine the public, private and voluntary sectors.

This is something which we would be willing to undertake to elaborate in guidance under the provisions of the Bill or, to be more specific, in the order which sets out the elements of the review.

I hope that in light of this explanation the noble Baroness will agree to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: That reply is very helpful and I am glad to note the Minister's proposal made at the end of her response to make this clear in guidance or in an order. The drafting of it is something which is occasionally quite difficult and I appreciate that non-profit organisations may well be businesses but I agree with the Minister that it is important that the voluntary sector understands that it is not being edged out by this provision. Either of those solutions would be extremely helpful. I put it that way because I can see that, in making it clear in the order that "other businesses" includes the voluntary sector, it might suggest that there are other places where the voluntary sector is not included in the term. So there could be

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some difficulties of drafting there and it might be one place where the reference in guidance might be more acceptable. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 44 to 48 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Best value performance plans]:

[Amendments Nos. 49 to 53 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 54:

Page 6, line 5, at end insert ("and the extent to which an authority's duties under this section may be met by its compliance with any other enactment")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment raises the issue of compliance by best value authorities with other enactments and most specifically seeks to request the Secretary of State in his guidance on the form and content of the best value performance plans and the manner of their publication to include the extent to which an authority's duties may be met by compliance with another enactment.

There is now a variety of statutory plans and requirements that local authorities must meet. Education development plans seem particularly to be referred to in this context. By contrast, annual policing plans under the Police Act 1996 are the subject of a specific provision for co-ordination with other plans. I have tabled the amendment in order to ask the Government how the other existing strategy plans tie in with performance plans.

The Government have recognised the need for co-ordination in the case of inspection with the clause which was added to the Bill in another place. It seems to me that there is an argument for recognising the co-ordination of plans as well. I understand that more than 35 statutory planning requirements have been identified. We need some guidance here to ensure that there are the proper connections between the various plans and local performance plans. For various obvious reasons, one of which is that the local performance plan must be readable, it must be accessible in every sense of the word. To have a variety of parallel but apparently unconnected plans would be confusing and could even be counterproductive to the aims of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This amendment is not necessary. Its effect would be to extend the scope of guidance which the Secretary of State may issue on the form and content of best value performance plans and the manner in which they should be published. It seeks to add a specific reference to the extent to which an authority's duties in relation to a plan may be met by compliance with any other enactment.

Perhaps I may reassure the Committee that the statutory duty of best value will apply to all local authority functions and services. The best value performance plan will be the principal means by which authorities are held accountable to local people for their performance in delivering local services and its

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proposals to improve. I note the noble Baroness's reference to the need for plain English to be one of the performance targets.

We recognise that both other statutory requirements and other statutory plans, while serving as free standing requirements, will also underpin best value. Where targets are set under these other arrangements we would expect them to reflect a best value dimension. Local authorities should be able to view the existing plans as forming the production of the best value performance plan rather than as an additional burden. Where statutory plans are already in existence, it would be sensible for these documents to support the best value performance plan.

As the annual plan will need to report on the full range of services provided by the authority and the plans for meeting targets for improvement, it is implicit that this will embrace actions being undertaken on all fronts by the authority, under whatever enactment those are pursued. The various plans will report directly on compliance with specific legislative measures and the performance plan can reflect this information.

We recognise the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that the various statutory plans need to complement one another. Our interim guidance made it clear that we have already had helpful discussions with the LGA about how this may be achieved and unnecessary duplication avoided. At the same time, the best value performance plan will play a valuable role in pulling together information from various sources which are of corporate relevance. As the interim guidance also points out, that is vital if local people are to have a rounded picture of their authority's performance.

There is therefore no need for this specific provision. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: I thank the Minister for that reply because she seemed to be saying that the guidance would deal with the point about which I expressed concern--and she is nodding at that! On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Audit]:

[Amendments Nos. 55 to 57 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Response to audit]:

On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps I may take this opportunity to ask the Minister what is meant by the term "publish" in Clause 9? The extent of publication may be a matter of concern to a best value authority. I am not now seeking to protect an authority which has something it might wish to hide. On the contrary, if a

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report is favourable a best value authority would be very glad to publish in the sense of informing the public that it has had a favourable report, but it may not want to be put to a lot of expense. Will publication in an authority's agenda and meeting papers be adequate to meet the requirements of Clause 9(1)?

Lord Whitty: I doubt it, but I would need to take advice on this matter. If the noble Baroness would bear with me, I should be grateful if she would accept a written reply to that question.

Baroness Hamwee: I will bear with the noble Lord and I am sure he will take on board the point that I have made. I do not suppose the Government, any more than particular authorities, will want money to be spent where it is not necessary to do so.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Inspections]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 8, line 27, at end insert ("and appoint an inspector to carry out the inspection.")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, which is grouped with Amendments Nos. 59 and 64, I should say that Amendments Nos. 58 and 64 are very directly related. This is a point of drafting convenience and the Minister does not have to accept it, but in my view it would make the Bill somewhat tidier. In Clause 10(2), the Secretary of State can direct the Audit Commission to carry out an inspection and,

    "the Commission shall comply with the direction". Then you are left out in the cold.

At the start of Clause 11, an inspector appears out of the air and his duties and functions are all set out. But in fact it is not until the end of Clause 11 that you find that this inspector has any relationship with Clause 10(2)! I find that drafting slightly odd, so I have suggested in Amendment No. 58 that the inspector should be appointed in compliance by the commission with the Minister's direction and then I have deleted Clause 11(7), which becomes redundant.

My other amendment in the group is to Clause 10(3), which provides that:

    "Before giving a direction under subsection (2) the Secretary of State shall consult the Commission". It would not seem unreasonable under the circumstances that he should also consult the authority concerned. At this time of night, I do not propose to say any more. Two of them stand on their own and the other is for consideration. I beg to move.

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