HL Deb 01 December 1994 vol 559 cc52-4WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for establishing an accounting framework for local authority support service costs, as proposed in the White Paper, Competing for Quality: Competition in the Provision of Local Authority Services.

Viscount Ullswater

We have today tabled regulations under the Local Government Finance Act 1982 which will require local authorities to publish annually a statement of support services costs (SSSC). This will illustrate the full costs of the professional support services to which the Government are extending compulsory competitive tendering (CCT), and will show the costs of these services to authorities' front-line service departments. The proposals for SSSCs have been developed in close and productive consultation with the Local Authority Associations, the Audit Commission, the Accounts Commission for Scotland, and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). A consultation draft of the regulations was issued by the Department of the Environment on 22nd February 1994. Comments were received from 194 local authorities and other interested parties.

In the light of these comments, we have decided that the first SSSCs will be required for 1995–96, rather than 1994–95 as proposed in February, to ensure that authorities have good time to prepare. The regulations also incorporate other technical improvements responding to comments and suggestions received.

Five support services are to become subject to CCT—legal services, construction and property services, IT, finance and personnel services. Parliament has already approved orders under Section 2(3) of the Local Government Act 1988 making legal services and construction property services "defined activities", for the purposes of CCT. The SSSC Regulations which have been tabled today relate to these services, designating them as "specified activities" to be covered in SSSCs. The Government will over the next few months place before Parliament CCT orders for the other three support services. Subject to Parliament's approval of the orders, the Government will table further SSSC regulations bringing them also into the scope of SSSCs.

London boroughs, metropolitan authorities, and joint committees of these authorities are required to produce an SSSC from 1995–96 onwards. Shire authorities, and joint committees of shire authorities will be required to produce a SSSC from 1996–97, or the second financial year after the coming into being of an authority newly established or reorganised following local government review, should that be later. SSSCs will also be produced by unitary authorities in Wales and by new police authorities established under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 in due course. SSSCs will be introduced in Scotland under separate legislative procedures.

Local authorities' support services cost more than £4 billion a year. SSSCs will make available authoritative information on these costs, and will be of value to local

1993–94 average council taxes payable per dwelling in each board
Local Authority Band A Band B Band C Band D Band E Band F Band G Band H
City of London 256 283 298 391 484 562 726
Camden 402 453 526 605 751 899 1,059 1,316
Greenwich 458 535 634 721 885 1,062 1,226 1,442
Hackney 360 437 530 612 782 945 1,082 1,231
Hammersmith and Fulham 306 361 411 468 587 708 826 1,015
Islington 463 446 514 605 756 917 1,086 1,292
Kensington and Chelsea 285 316 370 411 501 595 680 861
Lambeth 387 447 518 586 723 864 1,005 1,211
Lewisham 282 343 407 472 585 698 799 955
Southwark 343 407 485 560 687 784 957 1,145
Tower Hamlets 319 350 425 473 582 651 733 856
Wandsworth 255 298 352 404 502 602 704 838
Westminster 158 186 216 250 300 348 391 469

taxpayers, local authority members, and those responsible for the front-line local authority services, who are the customers for support services and bear the costs. The information will enable informed discussion of support service costs, and promote efficiency and value for money.

I have placed a list of responses to the consultation proposals in the Library, through which copies of individual responses may be obtained.