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Local Government Act 1999

Sections 7-9: Audit of best value performance plans

29.The Government’s approach to scrutiny of best value was set out in both its English and Welsh Green Papers, which included the following principles:

  • “Audit processes should confirm the integrity and comparability of performance information.” (Key Principle 9)

  • “Auditors will report publicly on whether best value has been achieved, and should contribute constructively to plans for remedial action. This will include ... reporting on progress on an agreed plan.” (Key Principle 10)

30.Section 7 sets out how Local Performance Plans are to be scrutinised and reported upon. The assessment of a Plan for any given year will be carried out by the auditor who audited the accounts of the authority concerned in the previous year, and, in the light of this, the auditor’s rights of access to documents and information under the best value process will closely follow those provided to an auditor in respect of accounts under section 6 of the Audit Commission Act 1998.

31.Under section 7, auditors will be expected to perform the following functions:

  • certify that the plan has been audited;

  • consider the extent to which the Plan accords with statutory requirements;

    • recommend any remedial action that the auditor judges necessary for the local authority to take where the Plan does not comply with the appropriate legal provisions, in circumstances where any failures which the auditor has identified are not considered to be serious enough to warrant recommending that an inspection takes place; and

    • where deficiencies and failures in the Plan are identified which in the auditor’s opinion are considered to be serious, to recommend follow up action either by the best value inspector (section 10) or, in the most serious cases, directly by the Secretary of State under his powers of intervention (section 15).

Section 7 also provides how and when the auditor will be expected to report publicly on the results of his assessment.

32.In conducting the scrutiny process, auditors will be expected to follow any Code of Practice which the Audit Commission may produce in respect of best value under section 8.

33.Section 9 sets out a best value authority’s obligation when it is in receipt of an auditor’s report on its local performance plan. In all cases, it will be required to publish the auditor’s report. Where the report contains recommendations under subparagraphs 7(4)(c) to (f) in respect of amendments or follow up action needed by the authority, or inspection or intervention by the Audit Commission or Secretary of State, section 9 sets out the further obligations which will apply to the best value authority in question.

34.In such cases, the authority will be required, within 30 working days of the production of the report (or such other period as the auditor may specify), to publish a statement of the action it proposes to take in respect of it, and its timetable for doing so. The statement must also be incorporated into the authority’s next local performance plan. In those cases where the auditor has recommended that the Secretary of State use powers of intervention under section 15, the authority will additionally need to send its statement of action to the Secretary of State, again within 30 working days of the production of the report.

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