Examination of Witnesses (Questions 680-699)|
THURSDAY 23 MAY 2002
680. A high proportion of people are bound to
be disappointed, I think, it depends how many people are on the
list, but we talked about 30,000 appointments, or so, and you
have said, I think, I think you have actually mentioned, you have
had 20,000 people, did you mention 20,000, over the years, who
could perhaps be qualified for that common register, or open register?
(Ms Middleton) People are grown-ups, they know about
"The answer is no," they just want efficiency. I am
not saying be efficient and run this system so that everybody
gets a public appointment, everybody knows there are 30,000 vacancies,
and maybe many more people who apply for it, that is okay, we
are all used to that, that is the system of applying; but what
I mean is people apply to it, half of them are forgotten, they
do not get any response, half the Government Departments do not
want to be involved in this system and half of them do, and somehow
it is not quite as good as it should have been. So people can
cope with "The answer is no," but they just want it
to be run in a fair, open and sensible way, with a commitment.
(Ms Sussman) I think that a site that advertises the
vacancies is much better than a register; people do not like to
be on an open-ended waiting list.
681. That is a fair point. But I go back to
the point that you made at the very beginning, Julia, that, okay,
you have seen 60,000 people; they know, they are much better informed
and more enthused, as a result of coming to you. But there are
many, many times that number of people, who, to use the perception,
that is brought to you initially, "Oh, well, it's not for
us, it's not our thing," and I am looking to a way where
we can get this onto a higher plane, and it cannot be done overnight,
but people know, "Yes, public service is a good thing, yes,
I'd like to do my bit for public service; here are the opportunities,
I must follow that route," and they will not expect to get
offered something the next day, it may be five years?
(Ms Sussman) I think you are right that any site that
is branded with `gov.' will have a great problem achieving that.
We have got lots of different routes of driving traffic to our
site, therefore reaching bigger and wider and more diverse audiences;
and a campaign, I think, gets its own momentum. And it is very
hard to get on a train and not meet someone who has been through
a Common Purpose programme, or been a contributor on a Common
Purpose programme; and, locally, the profile of Common Purpose
is very high, and I think word of mouth is a very powerful thing.
Sir Sydney Chapman: From what I have read about
you and what I have heard this morning, I think you are doing
a very invaluable job, and I wish you well. What I am trying to
do is not take it away from you, but see something like your organisation
is developed to give a much better service, and much better prospects,
and much more confidence in the system of selecting people for
public appointments. Thank you.
682. When I asked you earlier on, you said you
do not want to get involved with it, it is the fact that you are
not official that gives you the ability to do what you do, but
I mean why do they not just contract out the job to you, why do
they not say, "Look, we've got to fill 30,000 public appointments,
let's get an organisation to do it for us"? Because you keep
saying that we have got this silly system now, which does seem
to me to be silly, which is that you have got this unit which
just keeps a list of names, which is not seemingly well integrated
with Departments who actually need the people, and you have got,
therefore, all the problems that come with that and it is not
as fizzing and exciting as your approach. Would it not be better
just to contract out the exercise?
(Ms Middleton) I have been running for the past 12
years an organisation which is funded 80 per cent on people paying
to go on our programmes, we give masses of free places, but they
pay to go on our programmes; and that produces independence, and
an independence of spirit, that perhaps you are seeing here today
and that we try to live all the time. Somehow, being contracted
out by Government to do that, to some extent, would undermine
some of that independence, and therefore some of what we bring
to the party. But there are certainly more things that we could
be doing, and, indeed, wish to do, and will do. Just to go back
to the young people issue, we are so missing a trick. I was talking
to a vice chancellor of a university the other day, and he then
went quiet at the end of this conversation, and he said, "You're
making me feel very guilty, Julia," and I said "Why?"
and he said "Well, I got this letter from a young Hindu woman
lawyer, aged 26, who wants to come on the board of the university,
and I have got this in front of me, the letter I was about to
send her, a sort of `bog off'." And I said "You're not
going to send that, are you; how dare you send that, you can't
send that, because not only should she be on your board, but as
a result, in ten years' time she may be running some major chair
of a very important thing that is national, this is about planning
the careers of remarkable citizens." So there is something
very, very important about getting the younger age group, who
absolutely do not think they fit, they get patted on the head
by people in their 50s, who tell them that, "If you wait
30 years, perhaps you might get involved."And I think we
had to open the world to them, and in so doing do all kinds of
things like mentor. I try to mentor a number of young people so
that they do go on boards, and so that they are successfully on
boards, and try to hand on my knowledge; and lots of people do
that, and we need to do it more.
683. But you do not know whether this woman
should be on that board or not?
(Ms Middleton) I know that he should not refuse her
because she is 26.
684. We know that.
(Ms Middleton) We do not know, because it does not
happen a great deal, that a 26 year old does get on the board,
and we have to assume that they are being refused, or they are
not putting themselves forward, either of which things we ought
to do something about.
685. No, no; you will lead by saying she should
be on this board.
(Ms Middleton) What I am saying is, "Don't send
686. I agree about not sending the letter, yes.
This is a serious point, I think. When we had, Michael mentioned,
this person Fi Glover, who came to see us, this radio person,
who had applied by the Public Appointments Unit, she had nothing
much to put on her form. She had got a child and a job, and she
was trying to balance the two things, and that was about it; and
so most of the boxes were not able to be filled up. And yet, anybody,
like us, who met her for a few minutes that morning, would see
instantly that she had a vast amount of things to offer any organisation;
so no organisation would know that when they got her form back.
So, it seems to me, unless we find a way of identifying, as it
were, real people who can be on the form, and then, on Sydney's
point, that would be a kind of live list that we would have of
people that you knew were going to be good. I am telling you things
you know, am I not?
(Ms Middleton) But I agree with you entirely. But
also I want to work with her, and, as a very basic, I want her
to send me an e-mail on `Just Do Something' saying, "I know
I'm special, but I can see my form and I can't figure out how
to fill it in," and I would like to go and help her fill
it in. But then, also, however much good she is, when she goes
to that first meeting it will terrify her. So we have got to get
her first through the first and the second meetings. I spent an
enormous amount of time, trying to persuade somebody who lives
next to me, in Hackney, to be a school governor. I finally persuaded
her to do it, and after her first meeting she said, "Oh,
I can't do it. They're all so clever;" and I said, "They're
not, you know." So it is not just about getting the Fis and
getting them to fill in the form and seeing them, but also then
making sure that they are hugely successful when they become involved
in it, and they are sending the message to the other Fis all over
the country that this is something that is worth doing, that "Not
only was I appointed, but I've been a successful appointment,
and I have made a contribution."
Chairman: I am sorry to labour this, but I am
just not sure we are talking the same category here, you see.
In that case, she is someone who is not short of confidence, absolutely
not, she would sort out any organisation that she was on, rather
like you would; but the problem was, it is getting from where
you are now to public bodies knowing that there are such people
around. What you are describing is a particular kind of tooling-up
for certain kinds of people. I am saying that, yes, of course,
that is a category of person; but it is a much wider problem than
that, there are vast numbers of people out there who could do
instantly an extraordinarily good job by any organisation they
go anywhere near, but the system does not know that they exist,
and what can we do about that?
687. That point about the system, I think, is
very important, because Barbara Roche had said to the Committee
there was a lack of awareness, and there certainly is, because
to be on the list you have got to be proactive, you have got to
know it exists, you have got to feel confident you can go on the
list. There is never an attempt to try to lift awareness elsewhere
to bring people onto the list; if you are not on the loop you
will never know. And, again, about the form, the application forms
are all about, whether it is health, or some other body, what
you have chaired in the past, what committee you have been on,
and so on, never about what you could bring to the committee,
in terms of a contribution. So everything is built in almost against
people intervening and participating in the work of public bodies;
and we need to find a way of breaking it. And, I said to you earlier,
I feel strongly about this. I worked for a trade union, UNISON,
for about 14 years, I worked in the Health Service, in local government,
in higher education, in the voluntary sector, and I found very
able women everywhere, but not for a minute would they have thought
that they could apply for a job on some of these very important
bodies, and they just feel excluded for that reason alone. And,
before I finish, I just want to go back to this question, you
must address the question of payment. You said earlier on, in
your introduction, there is a South East bias. The Board of the
National Gallery, which is supposed to be that, a UK gallery,
you will find no-one from beyond the South East on it, for the
simple reason, if you are not paid, or you are not paid expenses,
you will never come from Scotland or the north of England to attend
something like that. So the whole structure excludes you, without
even starting. So we need to do something about it?
(Ms Middleton) I know, and I know how much the structure
matters, I do believe that you have to get into the heads of your
colleagues, who are politicians, that they must appoint people
outside the circle. Because I know that the structure, the forms,
the people can be barriers, but I do feel that there is a part
which is persuading politicians, that encouraging more people
is something that they have to lead on, personally, from the front,
and I do not see as much of that as I would dearly love to.
688. But there is just the simple thing, just
one simple argument, why do we not advertise nationally in the
press for public appointments, rather than The Telegraph, The
Times, The Guardian, The Independent; half the population never
see the advert.; why do you not just take a simple step, like
breaking that and opening up that?
(Ms Sussman) That is the beauty of the `Just Do It'
689. Yes; but I am talking about the public
appointment. There will be no public appointment for departmental
appointments, they will just put an advert. in the paper?
(Ms Middleton) But all those appointments will be
on a website, and, of course, there are some people who believe
that the web is not getting to many, many people, and a much greater
number, but I do not happen to be one of them.
690. I am intrigued by this, because I have
been looking through your brochure, which is fascinating, and
thank you for sending it out. You look at, let us just go through
them, 20:20, fee £4,500; Profile, fee, £750; Your Turn,
fee, £150, £450 per school, but a £1,000. You are
sort of trying to buy excellence, are you not, you are trying
to get people who can afford to pay into a position where they
are going to be leaders?
(Ms Middleton) I think, what you have not read, is
that absolutely everything that we do has the lines, `ability
to pay is not a criterion for accepting you on'.
691. I accept that, but 87 per cent pay, is
not that the position?
(Ms Middleton) No. I said 80 per cent of our income
comes through fees; so, no, nothing like 87 per cent pay. We honour
a huge number of bursaries, and, in fact, we take a financial
risk every year, because we say, that is an open door for as many
bursary places as apply; so, therefore, it has always been a huge
risk for Common Purpose, which we honour in absolutely everything
that we do. So, therefore, no. I also take the view that, if an
organisation can pay, and that is a reasonable fee in the market-place
for what they are getting, I think they should pay, and, as a
result of that, make sure that we supply bursaries for as many
as we want in the future.
(Ms Sussman) Just to clarify, it is not the individuals
who pay, it is the employers.
692. I accept that, you make that clear; but
what you are saying, if you have an individual, rather like Fi,
who came here, who is an employee of BBC Radio 5 Live, but she
wants to do it on her own, she is applying as her. You are probably
not going to get, and the BBC is perhaps a bad example, because
it is a corporation, but a body like that to pay. If you have
got the commitment to do it, you are really going to have to come
to you and say, "Look, I'm terribly sorry, but the employer
wont . . ." There is a balance here, is there not?
(Ms Middleton) We are ruthlessly tough, we will get
the BBC to pay. But, anyhow, she would apply to the programme,
there would be a local advisory group that would look at her application
and would take the view as to whether she should be on or not;
once they have decided who should be on, we then figure out who
693. So what percentage of that 80 per cent
actually pay full fees?
(Ms Middleton) On any programme, there are usually
about just between a half and two-thirds pay the full fee.
694. And most of that comes from employers?
(Ms Middleton) Yes, the vast majority.
695. Of which, what percentage are big companies,
small companies, can you break that down, as to the size?
(Ms Middleton) About 38-40 per cent is the private
sector; and, no, I could not break it down into small companies,
at a national level, no I could not, it varies hugely. We run
a programme in Kirklees, where it is obviously a huge number of
696. I can understand that. I come from Somerset,
I cannot imagine many big firms taking that on, because we have
not got any. But, going on to the financial inducement, you are
trying to persuade employers to say, "Right, come on, you
give us your people for leadership training," well they can
also get them to build rafts in the middle of Cumbria, to give
leadership training. Are you duplicating what other organisations
are doing, do you think, I know you are trying to get leadership
for specific bodies, but are you actually, potentially, taking
other opportunities from companies away that they could go down
the line of; you have put 60,000 people through?
(Ms Middleton) I think most companies are quite capable
of figuring out where they want to develop their people, and looking
at the market-place and figuring out who can do what. But, certainly,
if those are people who could do with understanding the outside
world and not just their own organisation, for a mixture of them
as citizens and as professionals, then they would tend to put
them on Common Purpose, no doubt have a good experience and then
do it again the following year.
697. And do you get any feedback from companies
to suddenly get told by an employer, "Actually, I do need
to take a day off, because I am going to sit on this," or
"I am going to take a couple of days off," you said
that is a bad idea, but some people do it; do you get then companies
saying, "Look, I'm terribly sorry, we've paid you this money,
but actually we don't want them to take the time off," do
you get any feedback like that from companies, that they are giving
too much time?
(Ms Middleton) I think people who go on the programmes
have a realistic view as to what they can and cannot do, and what
we try to do is give them quite different options, you know, there
are some things that take two days a week, and then there are
some things which you do in different ways.
(Ms Sussman) Coming on the actual programme, we are
very clear what the commitment is up front, over a day a month,
or two a month.
698. Yes, I can see, obviously, this is just
a pre«cis to what they are, but you lay out what you are
trying to achieve and what they will come away with, I suppose.
But I am just intrigued, because companies nowadays are incredibly
fickle about employees, as to the time off, etc., and I know this
from other experiences in the constituency, and I just wonder
whether you get any feedback?
(Ms Middleton) We do not find it a barrier; but, indeed,
Ian, either in Somerset or anywhere, I would be delighted to invite
you to have a look on a Common Purpose day, and if you are on
it we will make sure that you speak in some way, so that the participants
can also ask you lots of questions.
699. That will give the participants something
to panic about, if I put it like that.
(Ms Middleton) I would be delighted to welcome you
on a programme day, any time you like.