Website of the week

15 Jan

In September 2011, Eric Pickles (yes, him again!) produced a document called “Best Value Statutory Guidance”.  This short document set out what the government expected of councils when dealing with provision of services to its electors and in particular such organisations as voluntary groups and small businesses.

Now, the move of its headquarters from Sidmouth to Knowle will definitely affect voluntary groups and small businesses in Sidmouth and whilst the siting of the headquarters at Sidmouth is not a “service” as such, the change of use has service implications, so it is interesting to see what Mr Pickles says about how such groups should be treated in these circumstances as it gives a flavour of the ethos and principles expected of councils in such circumstances:

In its Foreward the Minister, Eric Pickles, says

I am not asking councils to do anything that I wouldn’t ask of my Department or any other. That is why, reaffirming our commitments under the Compact, all central government departments are also signing up to the same fair standards set out in the guidance.

 The Duty of Best Value is important because it makes clear that councils should consider overall value – including social value – when considering service provision. So it plays to the long-term strengths of voluntary and community groups and small businesses.

…… Local councils have been freed from excessive and prescriptive guidance and duties in return for a ‘social responsibility’ deal which asks that they continue to give support to local voluntary and community groups and small businesses.

It then goes on to list the requirements of the statutory guidance, and two paragraphs stand out:

2. Under the Duty of Best Value, therefore, authorities should consider overall value, including economic, environmental and social value, when reviewing service provision. As a concept, social value is about seeking to maximise the additional benefit that can be created by procuring or commissioning goods and services, above and beyond the benefit of merely the goods and services themselves.

3. To achieve the right balance – and before deciding how to fulfil their Best Value Duty – authorities are under a Duty to Consult representatives of a wide range of local persons; this is not optional. Authorities must consult representatives of council tax payers, those who use or are likely to use services provided by the authority, and those appearing to the authority to have an interest in any area within which the authority carries out functions. Authorities should include local voluntary and community organisations and small businesses in such consultation. This should apply at all stages of the commissioning cycle, including when considering the decommissioning of services.

Was YOUR business or community group consulted by EDDC on its forthcoming move?  This is NOT at the publication of the planning application stage but before it?

Seems that EDDC has a very limited view of what “consultation” actually means.  But then, we knew that already, didn’t we?

The only group that gets consulted on an almost daily basis seems to be the East Devon Business Forum (see above in Dates for your Diary for the details of the next meeting of the Task and Finish Forum which is meeting to discuss the influence of this group on EDDC policy).

The rest of us?  It now seems to be  survival of the fittest and the most powerful and the most influential, not the least fit and the most vulnerable and EDDC’s so-called “silent majority” – which only seems to be a silent majority when it is not speaking up for EDDC as it believes the ought to do.

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