Best Value, Efficient Government and Relocation
Best Value provides a common framework for continuous improvement in public services in Scotland, and is a key foundation of the Scottish Government's public service reform agenda.
The principles of Best Value complement good governance standards and offer a sound approach to running a public service organisation.
The duty of Best Value, as set out in the SPFM, is to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in performance whilst maintaining an appropriate balance between quality and cost and in making those arrangements and securing that balance, to have regard to economy, efficiency, effectiveness, the equal opportunities requirements and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Best Value ultimately is about creating an effective organisational context from which public bodies can deliver their key outcomes.
Accountable Officers appointed by the Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration have a specific responsibility to ensure that arrangements have been made to secure Best Value. The Scottish Ministers expect all Accountable Officers to comply with the duty of Best Value and for any associated matters relating to Value for Money, judged for the public sector as a whole placed upon them. In addition the Boards (or equivalents) of relevant public service organisations have corporate responsibility for promoting the efficient and effective use of staff and other resources by the organisations in accordance with the principles of Best Value. Under the terms of the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 the implementation of the duty of Best Value by relevant public service organisations is subject to scrutiny by the Auditor General for Scotland.
As a Board member, you should always bear in mind the need for your public body to continually secure Best Value in the performance of its functions. In a tight financial climate, service improvements may need to be funded from internal efficiencies.
Audit Scotland has adopted a generic framework for Best Value for all public bodies. This enables a consistent approach to auditing against Best Value principles across the public sector. Sustainable development and equalities are themes that run through the framework. It is a risk-based approach, recognising the increasing focus on partnership working, with the specific aim of:
- Reporting on overall governance and management arrangements
- Reporting on the delivery of outcomes
- Protecting taxpayers' interests by examining the use of resources
- Increasing the emphasis on self-assessment by public bodies with audit support and validation.
The Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, section 32(1)(b) provides that as soon as is reasonably practicable after the end of each financial year each listed public body must publish a statement of the steps it has taken during that financial year to improve efficiency, effectiveness and economy in the exercise of its functions. Efficiency is not about making cuts, it is about enhancing Value for Money, improving public service and raising productivity and as such efficient Government is focused on the sound management of resources and ensuring that public bodies continually review their operations to identify opportunities for efficiency improvements. Efficiency improvements are about improving the ratio of resource inputs to outputs and can be made in any area, including the administration and delivery of services and in the procurement of goods and services. By making efficiency savings, more resources are available for re-investing in the delivery of public services.
Opportunities for efficiency improvements within your body should be identified as part of the corporate and business planning processes. As a Board member you should ensure that such opportunities are being identified and that arrangements are in place for measuring, monitoring, and reporting on the delivery of efficiency savings to the Chief Executive.
This should include having efficiency performance indicators (such as a range of input/output ratios) that will allow you to routinely monitor the efficiency of your public body's operations.
Audit Scotland's report on Improving Public Service Efficiency identified that public bodies will need to improve productivity and efficiency in the delivery of public services to meet continued demands on public spending. Audit Scotland concluded that public bodies will need to take a more fundamental approach to identifying priorities, improving the productivity of public services, and improving collaboration and joint working. A Good Practice Checklist was produced to help leaders in public bodies check and challenge their approach and ultimately support better productivity and efficiency.
Relocation policy is related to Best Value and Efficient Government. Location reviews are triggered by the creation or reorganisation of bodies, as well as by property events (such as lease breaks). Relocation remains an option as part of streamlining the public bodies landscape, but should only be pursued following a rigorous and transparent process that shows any move provides best possible Value for Money for the public finances and optimum service delivery. Ministers will expect Board members to have regard to this policy in decisions they make on the most efficient and effective way of delivering services.