§ The Minister for Local Government and the Regions (Mr. Nick Raynsford)
Last year's Local Government White Paper announced that each best value parish or town council would be paid a grant of £30,000 per year when legislation permitted. This sum would cover audit costs and the corporate costs of carrying out work relating to best value, such as the preparation of performance plans and the management of reviews.
Provision has been made in the Local Government Bill, published last month, to enable these grants to be paid. Subject to Parliamentary approval, we expect to make the first payments in 2003–04, providing councils with a grant of £45,000, comprising £30,000 for 2003–04 and £15,000 for 2002–03.
We have also agreed that, on an exceptional basis, the Audit Commission will not charge their fees for auditing best value town and parish councils' 2003–04 performance plans, and will reimburse the fees paid by these councils for auditing their 2002–03 performance plans. This should amount to a total saving of approximately £10,000 for each best value town and parish council.