§ Mr. Raynsford
It is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that information provided to the Audit Commission is reliable. In publishing local authority performance indicators, the Audit Commission have to rely on this information. We have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this information in the majority of cases. Indeed, more is done to confirm that the systems in place for collecting this information are sufficiently robust than for many other nationally available sources of information.290W
§ Ms Armstrong
My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Secretaries of State for Health and Wales have agreed to set up today a financial management and policy review of the Audit Commission for Local Authorities and the National Health Service in England and Wales, as part of a programme of reviews of non-departmental public bodies.
The review will be conducted in two stages. The first will be a "prior options" study focusing on whether the functions carried out by the Audit Commission are needed and, if so, whether those functions are best undertaken by the Audit Commission or some other body. Subject to the outcome of this first stage, the second stage will consist of a more detailed review of the Audit Commission's structure, funding, financial management and methods of operation.
I have appointed Paul McQuail, a retired senior civil servant in the former Department of the Environment, to lead a small team to undertake the prior options study. To oversee the review, I am establishing an Advisory Group, on which we are inviting representatives from the Audit Commission and the health and local government sectors to join representatives from central Government.
In carrying out the study it is intended that the review team will consult with a wide range of interested parties and would welcome written representations from anyone who has views on the Audit Commission and its work.