The Local Government Act 1999 (“1999 Act”) provides the Secretary of State with powers to inspect or intervene in a local authority that is failing its best value duty, namely “to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness”.
Best value inspections
Where there are concerns that an authority is failing in its best value duty, the Secretary of State can use his powers under the 1999 Act to appoint an inspector to carry out an independent best value inspection. Inspectors may be supported by assistant inspectors.
Inspectors work independently from the department to produce a report for the Secretary of State assessing an authority’s compliance with the best value duty in relation to specified functions. This generally sets out the findings of the inspection, the risks these pose to the authority’s ability to carry out their best value duty and recommendations for next steps. Inspections can lead to statutory intervention, but this is not necessarily the case; inspections should be conducted in a way that ensures a better understanding of the situation at the authority with no assumptions made about what the outcome might be.
Best value interventions
If, based on available evidence, the Secretary of State takes the view that an authority is failing to comply with its best value duty, he can use powers under the 1999 Act to intervene in that authority.
While all interventions vary based on the nature of the best value failure, this can involve appointing any number of Commissioners to exercise specified functions of the authority on behalf of the Secretary of State. In many cases, Commissioners do not need to exercise these powers and instead are able to successfully work with the authority, supporting it to make decisions by providing advice, challenge and overseeing improvements. The authority may also be directed by the Secretary of State to do certain things to the satisfaction of Commissioners, such as development and delivery of an improvement plan to a specified timeframe.
Commissioner teams generally consist of a Lead Commissioner who is the public face of the intervention and responsible for the overall success of the intervention. Lead Commissioners may also be supported by any number of Assistant Commissioners. Other examples of Commissioners from past and current interventions include a Managing Director Commissioner, who may exercise Head of Paid Service duties, and/or Commissioners with responsibility for a specific area of improvement over which they hold executive function, e.g. finance.
Here you will find a report to our current Best Value Guidance