Best Value Inspection

November 18th, 2014 by James Goudie KC

As is well known, Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999 (“LGA 1999”) relates to “Best Value”.  Section 3 imposes the general duty.  Section 3(1) provides that a “best value authority” must make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.  As Underhill LJ observed in R (Nash) v Barnet LBC  [2013] EWHC 1067 (Admin), [2013] LGR 515, at paragraph 69(1), the core subject matter of the substantive best value duty is “the way in which” the authority’s functions are exercised; and that is “very general language” which connotes high-level choices about how, as a matter of principle and approach, the authority goes about performing its functions.

Sections 10-15 inclusive of LGA 1999 relate to best value inspections.  Section 10(1) authorises the Secretary of State (“the SoS”) to appoint a person to carry out an inspection of a specified best value authority’s “compliance” with the requirements of Part 1 of LGA 1999 in relation to specified functions.  Section 11 sets out the Inspector’s powers and duties.  Section 13 relates to Reports.  Section 15 gives the SoS further powers.

Pursuant to Section 10, the SoS decided that best value inspection should be carried out in the case of Tower Hamlets LBC.  On 14 November 2014 an attempt by the authority to bring a judicial review challenge against the SoS failed.  Goss J ruled that detailed reasons were not required, especially in the context of confidential material that had been received and where the authority already knew what the issues were and could not credibly claim to be in the dark.

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