Best Value: revised statutory guidance 2020

Guidance to help local authorities and other public bodies to demonstrate continuous improvement in their performance.

Section 2 – Best Value Themes


The 2004 Best Value guidance was structured around ten Best Value characteristics. This refreshed guidance reconfigures these characteristics into seven themes that better reflect the significantly changed policy and public service delivery landscape within which local authorities now operate.

Local authorities must be able to demonstrate a focus on continuous improvement in performance around each of these themes.

Theme 1 – Vision and Leadership

Effective political and managerial leadership is central to delivering Best Value, through setting clear priorities and working effectively in partnership to achieve improved outcomes. Leaders should demonstrate behaviours and working relationships that foster a culture of cooperation, and a commitment to continuous improvement and innovation.

In achieving Best Value, a local authority will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Members and senior managers have a clear vision for their area that is shared with citizens, key partners and other stakeholders.
  • Members set strategic priorities that reflect the needs of communities and individual citizens, and that are aligned with the priorities of partners.
  • Effective leadership drives continuous improvement and supports the achievement of strategic objectives.

This means that:

1. The local authority’s vision for its area is developed in partnership with its citizens, employees, key partners and other stakeholders.

2. Members set strategic priorities that contribute to achieving the local authority’s vision, reflect the needs of communities and individual citizens, and are aligned with the priorities of partners. They take decisions that contribute to the achievement of those priorities, in particular when allocating resources and in setting and monitoring performance targets.

3. The local authority’s vision and strategic priorities are clearly communicated to its citizens, staff and other partners.

4. Strategic plans reflect a pace and depth of improvement that will lead to the realisation of the local authority’s priorities and the long-term sustainability of services.

5. Service plans are clearly linked to the local authority’s priorities and strategic plans. They reflect the priorities identified through community planning, and show how the local authority is working with partners to provide services that meet community needs.

6. Priority outcomes are clearly defined, and performance targets are set that drive continuous improvement in achieving those outcomes.

7. There are clear and effective mechanisms for scrutinising performance that enable the taking of informed decisions and the measuring of impacts and service outcomes.

8. There is a corporate approach to continuous improvement, with regular updating and monitoring of improvement plans.

9. The local authority and its partners agree on how the key elements of Best Value will contribute to achieving the commonly agreed local priorities and outcomes. These key elements include the need to:

  • secure continuous improvement, in particular for those services aligned to the local authority’s priorities
  • provide customer- and citizen-focused public services, which meet the needs of diverse communities
  • achieve the best balance of cost and quality in delivering services (having regard to economy, efficiency, effectiveness and equalities)
  • contribute to sustainable development
  • encourage and support innovation and creativity.

10. Members and senior managers communicate the approach to Best Value methodically throughout the local authority in terms that are relevant to its staff and set out clear expectations of them. The local authority has a positive culture in which its people understand its vision and objectives and how their efforts contribute to their achievement, and they are engaged with and committed to improvement.

11. Members and senior managers are self-aware. They commit to training and personal development to update and enhance their knowledge, skills, capacity and capabilities to deliver Best Value and perform their leadership roles, and they receive sufficient support to do so.

12. Leadership is effective and there is good collaborative working. Members and senior managers have a culture of cooperation and working constructively in partnership, informed by a clear understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities and characterised by mutual respect, trust, honesty and openness and by appropriate behaviours.

Theme 2 – Governance and Accountability

Effective governance and accountability arrangements, with openness and transparency in decision-making, schemes of delegation and effective reporting of performance, are essential for taking informed decisions, effective scrutiny of performance and stewardship of resources.

In achieving Best Value, a local authority will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • A clear understanding and the application of the principles of good governance and transparency of decision-making at strategic, partnership and operational levels.
  • The existence of robust arrangements for scrutiny and performance reporting.
  • The existence of strategic service delivery and financial plans that align the allocation of resources with desired outcomes for the short, medium and long terms.

This means that:

1. Members and senior managers ensure accountability and transparency through effective internal and external performance reporting, using robust data to demonstrate continuous improvement in the local authority’s priority outcome measures.

2. Management information and indicators that allow performance to be assessed are widely and consistently used by the local authority. Senior management regularly receives information that is used to inform members about performance.

3. Performance is reported to the public, to ensure that citizens are well informed about the quality of services being delivered and what they can expect in future.

4. Learning from previous performance, and from the performance of other local authorities, informs the review and development of strategies and plans to address areas of underperformance.

5. Key organisational processes are linked to, or integrated with, the planning cycle; these include strategic analyses, stakeholder consultations, fundamental reviews, performance management, staff appraisal and development schemes, and public performance reporting.

6. The local authority has a responsible attitude to managing risk, and business continuity plans (including civil contingencies and emergency plans) are in place to allow an effective and appropriate response to planned and unplanned events and circumstances.

7. Key discussions and decision-making take place in public meetings, and reasonable measures are taken to make meeting agendas, reports and minutes accessible to the public, except when there are clear reasons why this would be inappropriate.

8. The local authority’s political structures support members in making informed decisions.

9. The scrutiny structures in the local authority support members in reviewing and challenging its performance.

10. Members and senior managers promote the highest standards of integrity and responsibility, establishing shared values, mutual trust and sound ethics across all activities. Effective procedures are in place to ensure that members and staff comply with relevant codes of conduct and policies. This includes ensuring that appropriate policies on fraud prevention, investigation and whistleblowing are established and implemented.

11. Members and senior managers understand and effectively communicate their respective and collective roles and responsibilities to members and staff. They understand that effective delegation enables and supports the local authority’s ability to achieve Best Value.

12. An information governance framework is in place that ensures proper recording of information, appropriate access to that information including by the public, and legislative compliance.

13. Technological innovation and digital transformation are promoted and used to ensure accessibility of performance information and public accountability.

14. Members and employees across the local authority understand and implement their responsibilities in relation to its Standing Orders and Financial Regulations.

15. There are clear governance and lines of accountability when delivering services via a third party, and there is evidence of the application of the principles within the ‘Following the Public Pound’ guidance when funding is provided to external bodies.

Theme 3 – Effective Use of Resources

Making the best use of public resources is at the heart of delivering Best Value. With clear plans and strategies in place, and with sound governance and strong leadership, a local authority will be well placed to ensure that all of its resources are deployed to achieve its strategic priorities, meet the needs of its communities and deliver continuous improvement.

In achieving Best Value, a local authority will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • It makes best use of its financial and other resources in all of its activities.
  • Decisions on allocating resources are based on an integrated and strategic approach, are risk-aware and evidence-based, and contribute to the achievement of its strategic priorities.
  • It has robust procedures and controls in place to ensure that resources are used appropriately and effectively, and are not misused.
  • It works with its partners to maximise the use of their respective resources to achieve shared priorities and outcomes.

This means that:


1. A workforce strategy is in place that sets out expectations on how the local authority’s staff will deliver its vision, priorities and values.

2. The strategy is translated into workforce plans, covering employee numbers, skills, knowledge, competencies and organisational structures, that demonstrate how staff will be deployed to deliver the services planned for the future. Plans are regularly reviewed at appropriate intervals according to a clear review cycle.

3. All employees are managed effectively and efficiently, and know what is expected of them. Employee performance is regularly assessed through performance appraisal, with individuals and teams being supported to improve, where appropriate.

4. Members and senior managers understand and demonstrate that effective delegation is an important contribution to the local authority’s ability to achieve Best Value.

5. The contribution of staff to ensuring continuous improvement is supported, managed, reviewed and acknowledged.

6. The local authority demonstrates a commitment to fairness, equity and safety in the workplace; it adopts relevant statutory guidance through progressive workplace policies and a commitment to best practice in workplace relationships.

7. Leaders ensure that there is the organisational capacity to deliver services through effective use of all employees and other resources. They communicate well with all staff and stakeholders, and ensure that the organisation promotes a citizen- and improvement-focused culture that delivers meaningful actions and outcomes.

Asset management

1. There is a corporate approach to asset management that is reflected in asset management strategies and plans, which are subject to regular review.

2. There is a systematic and evidence-based approach to identifying and managing risks in relation to land, buildings, plant, equipment, vehicles, materials and digital infrastructure.

3. The local authority actively manages its asset base to contribute to its objectives and priorities.

4. Fixed assets are managed efficiently and effectively, taking account of availability, accessibility, safety, utilisation, cost, condition and depreciation.


1. Information is regarded as a strategic resource and is managed accordingly.

2. There is a clear digital strategy in place, which includes resilience plans for information systems.

3. Information is shared appropriately, and the local authority seeks to develop data compatibility with its partners.

Financial management and planning

1. There is clear alignment between the local authority’s budgets and its strategic priorities.

2. Regular monitoring and reporting of financial outturns compared with budgets is carried out, and corrective action taken where necessary to ensure the alignment of budgets and outturns.

3. Financial plans show how the local authority will fund its services in the future. Long-term financial plans that include scenario planning for a range of funding levels are prepared and linked to strategic priorities.

4. An appropriate range of options is considered when taking decisions, and robust processes of option appraisal and self-assessment are applied.

5. The local authority has clear plans for how it will change services and realise efficiencies to close future budget gaps.

6. Members and senior managers have a clear understanding of likely future pressures on services and of how investment in preventative approaches can help alleviate those pressures, and they use that understanding to inform decisions.

7. Financial performance is systematically measured across all areas of activity, and regularly scrutinised by managers and members.

8. There is a robust system of financial controls in place that provides clear accountability, stakeholder assurance, and compliance with statutory requirements and recognised accounting standards.

9. The local authority complies with legal and best practice requirements in the procurement and strategic commissioning of goods, services and works, including the Scottish Model of Procurement. There is clear accountability within procurement and commissioning arrangements.

10. There are clear and effective governance and accountability arrangements in place covering partnerships between the local authority and its arm’s-length external organisations (ALEOs), including for performance monitoring and the early identification of any significant financial and service risks; there is evidence of the application of the principles of ‘Following the Public Pound.’

11. The local authority has a reserves policy that supports its future financial sustainability, and its reserves are held in accordance with that policy.

Performance management

1. Effective performance management arrangements are in place to promote the effective use of the local authority’s resources. Performance is systematically measured across all areas of activity, and performance reports are regularly scrutinised by managers and elected members. The performance management system is effective in addressing areas of underperformance, identifying the scope for improvement and agreeing remedial action.

2. There is a corporate approach to identifying, monitoring and reporting on improvement actions that will lead to continuous improvement in priority areas. Improvement actions are clearly articulated and include identifying responsible officers and target timelines.

3. The local authority uses self-evaluation to identify areas for improvement. This includes the use of comparative analyses to benchmark, monitor and improve performance.

4. The local authority takes an innovative approach when considering how services will be delivered in the future. It looks at the activities of other organisations, beyond its area, to consider new ways of doing things. A full range of options is considered, and self-assessment activity and options appraisal can be demonstrated to be rigorous and transparent.

5. Evaluation tools are in place to link inputs, activities and outputs to the outcomes that they are designed to achieve. There is evidence to demonstrate that improvement actions lead to continuous improvement and better outcomes in priority service areas.

6. The local authority seeks and takes account of feedback from citizens and service users on performance when developing improvement plans.

7. Improvement plans reflect a pace and depth of improvement that will lead to the realisation of the local authority’s priorities and the long-term sustainability of services.

8. Performance information reporting to stakeholders is regular and gives a balanced view of the local authority’s performance, linked to its priority service areas. The information provided is relevant to its audience, and clearly demonstrates whether or not strategic and operational objectives and targets are being met.

9. The local authority demonstrates a trend of improvement over time in delivering its strategic priorities.

Theme 4 – Partnerships and Collaborative Working

The public service landscape in Scotland requires local authorities to work in partnership with a wide range of national, regional and local agencies and interests across the public, third and private sectors.

A local authority should be able to demonstrate how it, in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, provides effective leadership to meet local needs and deliver desired outcomes. It should demonstrate commitment to and understanding of the benefits gained by effective collaborative working and how this facilitates the achievement of strategic objectives.

Within joint working arrangements, Best Value cannot be measured solely on the performance of a single organisation in isolation from its partners. A local authority will be able to demonstrate how its partnership arrangements lead to the achievement of Best Value.

In achieving Best Value, a local authority will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Members and senior managers have established and developed a culture that encourages collaborative working and service provision
    that will contribute to better and customer-focused outcomes.
  • Effective governance arrangements for Community Planning Partnerships and other partnerships and collaborative arrangements
    are in place, including structures with clear lines of responsibility and accountability, clear roles and responsibilities, and agreement around targets and milestones.

This means that:

1. Members and senior managers actively encourage opportunities for formal and informal joint/integrated working, joint use of resources and joint funding arrangements, where these will offer scope for service improvement and better outcomes.

2. The local authority is committed to working with partner organisations to ensure a coordinated approach to meeting the needs of its stakeholders and communities. This includes:

  • scenario planning with partners to identify opportunities to achieve Best Value
  • collaborative leadership to identify Best Value partnership solutions to achieve better outcomes for local people
  • proactively identifying opportunities to invest in and commit to shared services
  • integrated management of resources where appropriate
  • effective monitoring of collective performance, including self-assessment and reviews of the partnership strategy, to ensure the achievement of objectives
  • developing a joint understanding of all place-based capital and revenue expenditure.

3. Members and senior managers identify and address any impediments that inhibit collaborative working. The local authority and its partners develop a shared approach to evaluating the effectiveness of collaborative and integrated working.

4. In undertaking its community planning duties the local authority works constructively with partners to agree a joint vision for the Community Planning Partnership and integrates shared priorities and objectives into its planning, performance management and public reporting mechanisms. Service plans clearly reflect the priorities identified through community planning, and show how the local authority is working with partners to provide services that meet stakeholder and community needs.

Theme 5 – Working with Communities

Local authorities, both individually and with their community planning partners, have a responsibility to ensure that people and communities are able to be fully involved in the decisions that affect their everyday lives. Community bodies – as defined in the Community Empowerment Act 2015 (section 4(9)) – must be at the heart of decision-making processes that agree strategic priorities and direction.

In achieving Best Value, a local authority will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Early and meaningful engagement and effective collaboration with communities to identify and understand local needs, and in decisions that affect the planning and delivery of services.
  • A commitment to reducing inequalities and empowering communities to effect change and deliver better local outcomes.
  • That engagement with communities has influenced strategic planning processes, the setting of priorities and the development of locality plans.

This means that:

1. Members and senior managers ensure that meaningful consultation and engagement in relation to strategic planning take place at an early stage and that the process of consultation and engagement is open, fair and inclusive.

2. Members and senior managers are proactive in identifying the needs of communities, citizens, customers, staff and other stakeholders; plans, priorities and actions are demonstrably informed by an understanding of those needs.

3. Communities are involved in making decisions about local services, and are empowered to identify and help deliver the services that they need. Suitable techniques are in place to gather the views of citizens, and to assess and measure change in communities as a result of service interventions.

4. Active steps are taken to encourage the participation of hard-to-reach communities.

5. The local authority and its Community Planning Partnership work effectively with communities to improve outcomes and address inequalities.

6. A locality-based approach to community planning has a positive impact on service delivery within communities, and demonstrates the capacity for change and for reducing inequality in local communities by focusing on early intervention and prevention.

7. Members and senior managers work effectively with partners and stakeholders to identify a clear set of priorities that respond to the needs of communities in both the short and the longer term. The local authority and its partners are organised to deliver on those priorities, and clearly demonstrate that their approach ensures that the needs of their communities are being met.

8. The local authority engages effectively with customers and communities by offering a range of communication channels, including innovative digital solutions and social media.

9. The local authority plays an active role in civic life and supports community leadership.

The two cross-cutting themes that a Best Value local authority should fully embrace across all of its activities are Theme 6, sustainable development, and Theme 7, fairness and equality.

Theme 6 – Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is commonly defined as securing a balance of social, economic and environmental wellbeing in the impact of activities and decisions, and seeking to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide a fuller definition and set out an internationally agreed performance framework for their achievement.

Sustainable development is a fundamental part of Best Value. It should be reflected in a local authority’s vision and strategic priorities, highlighted in all plans at corporate and service level, and a guiding principle for all of its activities. Every aspect of activity in a local authority, from planning to delivery and review, should contribute to achieving sustainable development.

In achieving Best Value, a local authority will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Sustainable development is reflected in its vision and strategic priorities.
  • Sustainable development considerations are embedded in its governance arrangements.
  • Resources are planned and used in a way that contributes to sustainable development.
  • Sustainable development is effectively promoted through partnership working.

This means that:

1. Leaders create a culture throughout the local authority that focuses on sustainable development, with clear accountability for its delivery across the leadership and management team.

2. There is a clear framework in place that facilitates the integration of sustainable development into all of the local authority’s policies, financial plans, decision-making, services and activities through strategic-, corporate- and service-level action. In doing so, the local authority will be able to demonstrate that it is making a strategic and operational contribution to sustainable development.

3. The local authority has set out clear guiding principles that demonstrate its, and its partners’, commitment to sustainable development.

4. There is a broad range of qualitative and quantitative measures and indicators in place to demonstrate the impact of sustainable development in relation to key economic, social and environmental issues.

5. Performance in relation to sustainable development is evaluated, publicly reported and scrutinised.

Theme 7 – Fairness and Equality

Tackling poverty, reducing inequality and promoting fairness, respect and dignity
for all citizens should be key priorities for local authorities and all of their partners, including local communities.

In achieving Best Value, a local authority will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • That equality and equity considerations lie at the heart of strategic planning and service delivery.
  • A commitment to tackling discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and promoting good relations both within its own organisation and the wider community.
  • That equality, diversity and human rights are embedded in its vision
    and strategic direction and throughout all of its work, including its collaborative and integrated community planning and other partnership arrangements.
  • A culture that encourages equal opportunities and is working towards the elimination of discrimination.

This means that:

1. The local authority demonstrates compliance with all statutory duties in relation to equalities and human rights.

2. The local authority is taking active steps to tackle inequalities and promote fairness across the organisation and its wider partnerships, including work and living conditions, education and community participation.

3. The local authority and its partners have an agreed action plan aimed at tackling inequality, poverty and addressing fairness issues identified in local communities.

4. The local authority engages in open, fair and inclusive dialogue to ensure that information on services and performance is accessible to all, and that every effort has been made to reach hard-to-reach groups and individuals.

5. The local authority ensures that all employees are engaged in its commitment to equality and fairness outcomes, and that its contribution to the achievement of equality outcomes is reflected throughout its corporate processes.

6. The local authority engages with and involves equality groups to improve and inform the development of relevant policies and practices, and takes account of socio-economic disadvantage when making strategic decisions.

7. The equality impact of policies and practices delivered through partnerships is always considered. Equality impact information and data is analysed when planning the delivery of services, and measuring performance.

8. The local authority’s approach to securing continuous improvement in delivering on fairness and equality priorities and actions is regularly scrutinised and well evidenced.



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