Examination of Witnesses (Questions 115-119)
ANDREW WHETNALL, PAUL ROWSELL AND PETER MURPHY
TUESDAY 23 APRIL 2002
115. Can I welcome you to the Committee. Could I ask you to identify yourselves, for the record, please?
(Mr Whetnall) Yes, Chairman, thank you. I am Andrew Whetnall, Director of Local Government in DTLR. On my left, Paul Rowsell, who is the Head of the Democracy and Local Leadership Division, dealing with, among other things, constitutions and elections. And, at the end of the table, Peter Murphy, who is a member of the Local Government Modernisation Team, which exists to bring local government experience into policy-making into the Department and create a good feedback loop on policy. I am grateful to Peter, because he stepped in at very short notice; we had another member of the Team pencilled in, who is ill.
116. Right. Do you want to say anything by way of introduction, or are you happy for us to go straight to questions?
(Mr Whetnall) We are happy to go straight into questions.
117. Is the Local Government Act being successful?
(Mr Whetnall) I think, probably, overall, it is early days to say so, because it introduces some very profound changes, and there is no doubt at all that implementation of those will go at a different pace in different places; and if the ultimate test of success is the impact on the vitality of local democracy and in the quality of outcomes then that will take a while to come through. But, in terms of the mechanics, the processes are being put in place, and I think there is a mix of good news stories and, as one might expect, other stories, that people are finding it difficult and will take time to adjust to it.
118. How are you assessing it?
(Mr Whetnall) We have both some of the immediate `being in touch' mechanisms, through the Modernisation Team, the sort of feedback we get naturally, and also we have commissioned and just let some large and long-term evaluation projects both for constitutions, ethics, Local Strategic Partnerships, bringing together the systematic gathering of documentation and evidence.
119. What are those evaluation projects measuring; does it include public perception?
(Mr Whetnall) It will include public perception; and they are phased projects, really. They will set out, first of all, to document what is going on and what the processes are, and there will be some evaluation of the immediate effect of those processes; and then there is a phase two, which stretches all the way to 2005, I think, which will begin to look at the sort of intermediate and longer-term impacts. So they are quite complex and structured programmes of research.