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Councils to undergo value review

Local education authorities will be expected to carry out fundamental reviews under new Government plans to ensure they give the public what it wants in the most effective way.

Labour's Best Value initiative, unveiled this week, will build on the greater consultation, planning and target setting already expected of education authorities and extend them to all council services.

And as in education, there are threats of greater Government powers to act if councils fail to deliver.

But details remain to be thrashed out - including how the local performance plans expected under Best Value will fit with the panoply of education plans expected of local authorities. Also to be sorted out is how scrutiny of education services under Best Value will sit with the new regime of education authority inspections by the Office for Standards in Education and the Audit Commission.

Local government minister Hilary Armstrong said Best Value would bring about "a change in culture" in public services and encourage wider partnership". She pledged it would cut bureaucracy, not increase it - "less red tape but a more rigorous regime", she said.

Richard Footitt, the Department of Environment, Transport, and Regions official in charge of developing Best Value, said he was anxious to avoid "plan-itis".

"We'll be working with the Audit Commission and OFSTED, not against them. The intention is to keep all this as light-touch as possible while providing a pretty tough regime," he said.

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