|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Government have today published a circular on best value and performance improvement, containing guidance for principal local authorities about how to achieve best value and secure continuous improvement in delivering local services. It consolidates and replaces existing guidance.
The services provided by local authorities directly impact on everyone's quality of life. It is therefore vital that these services are delivered to a high standard and in ways that are responsive to the needs of their users.
The circular emphasises the important role that best value can play in helping to drive up the quality of local services. It explains how authorities can make arrangements under best value to secure a well-trained and motivated workforce, to review performance effectively and to use the annual performance plans to record their priorities for improvement and achievements.
It includes a code of practice on workforce matters in local government service contracts. The code will ensure that the provision of local services is not undermined by poor employment practices in respect of new joiners to contracted-out services. Partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors should be selected where these will drive up service performance standards, not in order to drive down staff terms and conditions.
Today I am also laying an order requiring all best value authorities to consult recognised unions and employees' associations, and staff, when conducting best value reviews. This will ensure that better decisions are made, increase understanding of the reasons for those decisions and help authorities achieve continuous improvement in service delivery.
Lord Rooker: The results of the latest 2003 survey carried out by the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) Better Connected 2003: a snapshot of local authority websites, show that 10 UK councils now have websites that are rated as "transactional". This compares with four UK council "transactional" websites in 2002. The SOCITM 2003 survey results also show an increase in transactions across UK council websites of over 50 per cent compared with 2002.
The most accurate measure of progress towards the 100 per cent target for local government services online by 31 December 2005 target is the Audit Commission's Best Value Performance Indicator 157 relating to electronic service delivery. The definition of online services for this indicator includes delivery by telephone if the transaction carried out is electronically enabled, i.e. the officer receiving the call can access electronic information and/or update records on-line. The Audit Commission reports that by 31 March 2003 35.4 per cent of local authority services in England were online. BVPI 157 projections compiled by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister from this year's Implementing Electronic Government returns show that local authorities in England expect to be 49.4 per cent online by 31 March 2003, 71.0 per cent online by 31 March 2004, 89.3 per cent online by 31 March 2005 and 99.8 per cent online by 31 March 2006.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On 17 December 2002 the Government issued a consultation paper, Simplifying the taxation of pensions: increasing choice and flexibility, which puts forward a proposed framework of benefit rules that would apply to all tax-approved pension schemes. The consultation allows people to put forward their views before final decisions are taken.
The unemployment rate, based on an average for the 12-month period ending November 2002, is 8.0 per cent for the City of Kingston upon Hull and 5.2 per cent for the United Kingdom. These estimates are from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): It is not normal practice to comment on individual cases. However, I can confirm that, of the three individuals named, two are currently detained under the provisions of the Mental Health Act and the other remains in prison custody.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): I am advised by the commission that it intends to publish a report on the formal investigation into the Prison Service as soon as practicable.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): United Kingdom Armed Forces deployed on operations are afforded a range of defences against NBC attack. These include detection capabilities, warning and reporting systems, decontamination equipment and procedures, physical protection, including respirators and protective suits, and medical countermeasures.
Our strategy to manage the threat from ballistic missiles is a comprehensive one whch incorporates counter-proliferation, diplomatic measures, deterrence and threat reduction capabilities, including the NBC detection and protection mentioned previously. Significant protection is available through appropriate tactics, training and procedures.
Lord Bach: The current level of support provided to British troops by local suppliers is commendable considering the speed and size of build up in the Gulf. It is inevitable with a deployment of this scale that there will be occasional isolated difficulties. Where these have occurred, swift action has been taken to rectify the problem.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page