Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600
WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL 2002
600. Taking it on from James Cran's point, we
have just been walloped with the most enormous Council Tax bills
in Nottinghamshire. What thinking is there about the funding and
the effect of taking on extra duties?
(Mr Shuttleworth) The funding of the extra duties
in the review?
(Mr Shuttleworth) We, as a Local Government Association,
have certainly put in our bid for additional resources to carry
out new work as a result of all these emergencies that have happened
over the last two years and the review and we have certainly put
that into the Comprehensive Spending Review. That statement has
been made. If you want the figures for that, we have asked for
an additional £26.76 million revenue and £17.08 million
capital for local authorities in England only. There was a suggestion
in the revenue that the responsibility for Wales may go to the
Assembly so we did not actually cost that out. That is our bid
for additional resources.
602. Thank you for that. Moving on, the buzz
word "resilience" has come up a number of times and
I see that Chris Leslie gave particular priority to the concept
of resilience. What do you understand by it? Having defined it,
how would you measure it?
(Mr Griffin) I think that is an interesting question.
(Mr Griffin) I am in danger of being accused of giving
a politician's answer because I do not think that is the right
question. I think I would like to answer what I think is the right
question. I know you will come back. Simply to ask what we mean
by resilience, the resilience is obviously the ability of an organisation
to respond effectively to abnormal demands and stretch its response
to meet abnormal demands without the organisation collapsing or
being overwhelmed. So resilience is to do with capacity. I could
stop there and say I have answered your question but I do not
really think I have. What I would like to address is what are
the implications of resilience. I think you are right, it has
become something of a buzz word. I think there is a recognition
nationally and locally that events do happen and perhaps we live
in a riskier world and that we ought to be addressing how resilient
we are. So what are the implications of that? Generally, over
the last few years, we have endeavoured to become not only as
effective as we can but as efficient as we can and to be as lean
as we can. I think there is a point where leanness, that level
of efficiency and resilience are mutually incompatible. One looks
at that in the context of, for example, our own resilience in
terms of business continuity planning. Effective business continuity
planning requires a degree of redundancy otherwise you will not
be able to cope with something which happens to the organisation
as a whole. I think if we are going to make our civil communities
more resilient we have to accept a degree of that kind of redundancy
recognising that we are not necessarily going to be as "efficient"
as we might be in order that we can be more resilient in dealing
with the events which might happen.
604. I think that is a fair answer to the question.
(Mr Griffin) Thank you.
605. The question has to be asked. It is interesting,
you have focused right down into the emergency planning side in
particular in terms of potential terrorist events. We have seen
the disappearance of the whole infrastructure of early warning
systems and the like. It would strike me that level of resilience
has now disappeared completely. Therefore, going on to what I
have asked already, can we measure it? Can we measure resilience?
(Mr Griffin) I think measuring resilience is very
(Mr Griffin) I am not sure I can add to that sentence.
I think it is very difficult. I think what one needs to be doing
is asking civil governments to pay heed to the fact that there
are risks. He has gone but a little bit to Mr Cran's question
about hazards. We need to recognise that there are risks which
we might need to face and ask whether organisations are capable
of making a reasonable response to those and to recognise that
in order to make a reasonable response to a reasonably foreseeable
risk one may need structures and capacity and resources which
go beyond those which are needed for a job.
607. Thank you.
(Cllr Phillips) Could I just add, in the terms of
your saying that Nottinghamshire and your swingeing increase,
my Chairman, Jane Chervis, wrote to Christopher Leslie, Parliamentary
Secretary at the Cabinet Office on 4 March when we found ourselves
in the position that we believed that there should be no loss
in grant in any authority, and some are losing up to 15 per cent,
in the coming year. We had previously agreed a dampener of 10
per cent using the last transitional year. "It should be
borne in mind that bids for 2001-02, which were needs based, were
for a total of £21.5 million (subsequently negotiated down
. . . "by the Ministers" . . . to £18,968 million
by your officials using strict civil defence criteria). This total
set out what local authorities required based upon assessed needs
for their own areas. Further, it should be further noted that
little account was taken in these bids for additional work required
as a result of the widespread flooding and no account will have
been taken of the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak or
the considerable additional burdens arising as a result of 11
September". Now she said "This leads me to comments
in your letter of which we take great exception. We are very concerned
that you should imply that some authorities acted irresponsibly
last year in claiming increases of their allocations for the previous
year. We would be happy to receive details of the alleged financial
irresponsibility." So with the Cabinet Office there is in
actual fact a situation that our grants have been reduced in a
number of authorities but we still have to find that money to
meet those needs which were absolutely minimum. They were not
additional allocations, we have been cut by three million during
608. I think you will find this argument has
been raging up and down the constituencies.
(Cllr Phillips) Yes, it has, you are quite right.
609. Did she have a reply to the letter?
(Cllr Phillips) We have not had it yet, no.
610. Perhaps you will send a copy of the letter
and that reply. I would like a look.
(Cllr Phillips) It is early days.
611. Moving on if we may to the role of the
armed forces in the planning process. There is no explicit reference
to the role of the armed forces in the consultation document and
the consultation process. We have heard from the Ministry of Defence
that actually they are relatively content with this in as much
as they were consulted on the draft of the document. Therefore,
they were content also that they did not themselves take part
in the public consultation process. What do you think, is that
right? Should the role of the armed forces have been part of the
(Mr Shuttleworth) I think the role of all possible
responding agencies should be part of the review process. They
should be able to respond. From our point of view they are a very
important resource and must be involved wherever possible in that
process. We know it is difficult if we go on to partnership and
talk about the statutory partnership of the military. It is a
bit difficult because you do not know who will be there when the
emergency happens and the other commitments. We do have excellent
liaison with the military at local level, I have to say. In our
area the RAF and the army liaison officer do keep us informed
of whether they are able to respond at the time. You cannot write
them into a plan because you do not know if they are going to
be there. They should be part of the review.
612. You have answered my next question whether
they should be included as a statutory local partner. The answer
is yes but it is very difficult to predict what their availability
is going to be.
(Mr Shuttleworth) It is. Our experience of using them
in emergencies is they are very professional and they are able
to deliver. We have been very grateful for them on occasions,
particularly in recent flooding events it has been very, very
613. Do you consider the forces a local, regional
or national resource?
(Cllr Phillips) I would say both.
614. At what level should they be consulted?
(Mr Shuttleworth) Each local authority has got a liaison
officer appointed. Now whether they are local would depend on
the location of those resources, I think. In our own area we do
not have any permanent military bases so our liaison officers
are from Lincolnshire or Nottinghamshire. We do link with those
on a local basis but we also link with some of our regional meetings
with our colleagues when we are looking at cross-border situations.
We are coming to them at those levels. I think the need is at
615. I can see that it is difficult to try and
lay a template, if you like, of local authority areas with local
armed forces, not just because of the disparate nature of forces
because some are not always deployed in this country, I do understand
the difficulties of that, but you can assure me that the liaison
process works well and is proactive?
(Cllr Phillips) In my area it certainly is. We are
holding a joint exercise with the brigade concerned in the next
two or three months, which is the very good nature of co-operation.
616. That is Wiltshire?
(Cllr Phillips) Yes.
617. So one would expect that.
(Cllr Phillips) Over in the next county we probably
have not got any soldiers left there at the present moment.
618. Thank you. The introduction to the Public
Discussion Paper, The Strategic Defence Review: a New Chapter,
and I will quote from Mr Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence,
states "Mr Hoon wants the widest possible audience to understand
how our thinking is evolving, and to have the opportunity to express
opinions in time to influence the work and the final conclusions."
The deadline for submissions was 15 March. What involvement have
you had with the MoD's work on a new chapter for The Strategic
(Cllr Phillips) I have not.
(Mr Shuttleworth) I have not.
Patrick Mercer: None of you at all.
Chairman: We should move on. I hope we
get the same concise questions and answers for the rest of the
morning but I doubt it.
619. Can I come back to some of the comments
made by Mr Griffin and Cllr Phillips about the role of central
government. Just what role do you think central government should
be playing? You commented that you think it should be legislating,
is that really defining what local authorities should be doing,
what agencies should be doing, and then to stand back and allow
you to get on with it? Should it increase your funding? That seems
to be a clear call.
(Cllr Phillips) That is a good point.