Section 1 – Overview
The Duty of Best Value
The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 introduced a statutory framework for Best Value for local authorities. The Best Value duties set out in the Act are:
- to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in performance (while maintaining an appropriate balance between quality and cost); and, in making those arrangements and securing that balance, to have regard to economy, efficiency, effectiveness, the equal opportunities requirement and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development
- to achieve break-even trading accounts, subject to mandatory disclosure
- to observe proper accounting practices
- to make arrangements for the reporting to the public of the outcome of the performance of functions.
Purpose of the Guidance
Best Value guidance has been in place since 2004, identifying the characteristics of Best Value to help local authorities develop arrangements to demonstrate continuous improvement in their performance.
In recognition of the changes since 2004 to the environment in which local authorities deliver services, a multi-agency steering group was tasked with reviewing and refreshing the guidance. The steering group endorsed the continuing relevance of the substance of the original guidance, but felt that it should be revised to reflect the current public service landscape in Scotland, with an increasing emphasis on citizens and personalised services, a focus on outcomes, and the need for innovation in designing public services for the future. The steering group also identified the need for synergy and alignment, so far as possible and appropriate, between the statutory guidance and the guidance on Best Value in public services, which applies to public bodies that are accountable to the Scottish ministers.
This revised guidance has been produced by the steering group and reflects the priorities that it identified. It replaces the previous guidance that was published in 2004, which comprised both the statutory guidance by Scottish ministers and supporting guidance by the then Best Value Task Force, so that all the relevant guidance is now contained in this single document.
Best Value Themes
This revised guidance is framed around the following Best Value themes:
1. Vision and leadership
2. Governance and accountability
3. Effective use of resources
4. Partnerships and collaborative working
5. Working with communities
7. Fairness and equality
As in the previous guidance, sustainability and fairness and equality continue to be cross-cutting themes that should be integral to all of the functions and activities carried out by a local authority to deliver good outcomes and achieve Best Value.
Section 2 of this guidance explains these themes and how a local authority can demonstrate that it is delivering Best Value in respect of each theme.
Scope of the Guidance
This guidance applies to other bodies as required by Section 106 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, notably health and social care integration joint boards and other joint committees or boards, that are subject to the same statutory Best Value duties as local authorities and it should be interpreted and applied accordingly. Section 14 of the 2003 Act applies the Best Value duty to these other bodies and thus references throughout the guidance to ‘local authorities’ cover all such bodies.
Other devolved public bodies, such as the NHS, are not directly covered by the
2003 Act. They are, however, under a similar Best Value duty, which is set out in
the Scottish Public Finance Manual, and a statutory duty under the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000) to use their resources ‘economically, efficiently and effectively’.
Since 2003, the enactment of other key legislation has had a significant impact across Scotland, extending the requirements of Best Value beyond local authorities. The Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 has resulted in the integration of health and social care, while the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 has strengthened the statutory base for community planning, and for involving and engaging communities in planning and decision-making about things that matter to them.
Working with Partners
Achieving Best Value is increasingly dependent on the effectiveness of partnerships and collaborative working arrangements with a range of stakeholders, in addition to how well a local authority manages its own activities. Since the original version of this guidance was published in 2004, there has been an increased focus on partnership and collaborative working across the public sector, with much more alignment of key plans and strategies among partners, and joint working to deliver shared outcomes. Alignment of key plans and strategies with its partners, an understanding of place, a commitment to reducing inequalities, empowering communities to affect change, and being able to demonstrate improved outcomes for people who use services are now key requirements in the achievement of Best Value.
Although local authorities are not responsible for the performance of all partners in their areas, they are crucial in influencing many local services through their relationships with others. Local authorities achieving Best Value will be able to demonstrate a vision and direction of travel shared with key stakeholders in order to achieve key outcomes for local people. There are a number of areas where Best Value can be demonstrated only by working in strong partnership arrangements with bodies not covered by the statutory Best Value duties in the 2003 Act, and this is reflected in the guidance.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the statutory guidance on community planning, which describes how local authorities and other public sector bodies should work together in the context of community planning.
Role of the Accounts Commission
The Accounts Commission for Scotland is responsible for reporting on the performance by local authorities (and those other bodies covered by section 14 of the 2003 Act as discussed above, such as integration joint boards) of their Best Value and community planning duties. The Commission considers, in public, statutory reports from the Controller of Audit on Best Value, based upon the annual audit work by appointed external auditors in individual councils. Having considered such a report, the Commission has a range of powers that it can use, as set out in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. They also make use as appropriate of the work of other local government scrutiny and inspection bodies.