Examination of Witnesses (Questions 620
WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL 2002
620. Or should it very much put itself in the
position of being the prime central co-ordinating body which really
sorts out who should be doing what as and when a crisis occurs?
I know it is rather difficult but can you summarise what role
the Local Government Association thinks central government should
(Cllr Phillips) Could I just say that from my perspective,
ministers and civil servants are unable to give any timetable
for the introduction of any legislation at the present moment.
The LGA understands the demand for parliamentary time but thinks
that legislation should be brought before the House as a matter
of urgency given the recent major emergencies. That is not only
the September 11 scenario but foot and mouth and the other things,
like flooding, that we have already mentioned. From the debates
on the Civil Defence Grant Bill there does appear to be all-party
support for some form of new legislation. As my colleagues have
already emphasised on a number of occasions during the course
of these discussions, whatever happens there is still a role which
local government has to pick up irrespective of whether you change
the legislation or not. I do not think local government, and I
am speaking in a personal capacity, would very much welcome those
functions being taken away and overridden by somebody else somewhere
else because it is a partnership function. It may well be in looking
at the possibilities of legislation that Government wants to look
at the question of how close the role is between various Departments
of State and whether their co-ordination is there to assist us
in the functions that we carry out. I think that aspect of it
is very important because we do not see the legislation as something
that becomes entirely different, it is complementary to give more
power to be able to react to the situations that we hope do not
occur, quite frankly. Therefore, I think local government would
still have that major role of co-ordination in the aftermath and
all the other things like that, but we do want the assistance
perhaps, for want of a better description, of the Departments
of State in getting us to be able to carry out those functions
more efficiently perhaps than they are done today because we do
not have that measure of very close co-operation. Whether that
requires legislation is not for me to comment.
(Mr Griffin) Can I just say that for the most part
I think it is inevitable that local authorities should and would
respond to emergencies but there are always going to be the exceptional
cases, and I think the fuel crisis was probably one of those,
where there is a role for central government to take on the co-ordinating
role. Therefore, it is not simply a matter of saying central government
should legislate, provide more money and then go away, that is
too simple an answer. Other than those more widespread, more significant
emergencies I would take the view that local government ought
to continue to lead.
621. Can I pick up on the comment you made earlier
about the Civil Contingencies Secretariat when you said that you
felt the establishment was an improvement but there was more distance
to go. Would you like to say a little more about what improvement
you feel there has been since the establishment of CCS and what
more needs to be done in that respect?
(Mr Griffin) I think those of us who were involved
at local authority level at the time of the fuel crisis found
central government to be highly unco-ordinated. We were getting
different communications, often inconsistent communications, from
different departments, sometimes at the same time, and we knew
more about what other departments were doing than some of the
departments communicating with us. I think that the shift to the
Cabinet Office has been brought about largely by a recognition
in central government that turf wars can get in the way of effective
response and the Government response and the Government communication
can be improved. I think we have yet to see that process fully
completed and I think when we see some legislation in place we
might have a little bit more confidence that there is a more coherent
central government response.
622. Thank you. Can I also take the opportunity
to ask you, still on the issue of the CCS, about the evidence
we have heard. Brigadier Abbott talked about the arrangements
for handling an emergency that were being developed in London
and told us "Our hope is that the model we have come up with
for London will be exported as best practice around the country".
Can I ask, firstly, are you familiar with the model which has
been developed for London and, secondly, whether you support the
strategy of subsequently rolling out that model across the country?
(Mr Kerry) The model which the CCS have developed
has not yet been given to us. We understand that it is to be given
to us on 29 April, so I cannot answer as to whether the model
is going to be any good or not. We hope it will be. As to whether
it is a model that can be rolled out for the rest of the country,
again I cannot answer that without seeing it because obviously
there are many similarities in emergency management in London
with the rest of the country but also there are some differences
structurally from the rest of the country. I think it is unlikely
that one model will be good totally for all. Hopefully it will
be a model that can be adapted appropriately so that there is
consistency from the core but without prejudicing the actual needs
of different locations as they see that.
(Mr Shuttleworth) Can I just add to that. We prefer
the term "good practice" because we are not certain
it is best practice. I think that good practice does need to be
shared with the rest of the country wherever it happens. There
may be other instances where there is good practice happening
in emergency planning that should be shared and we are not convinced
at the moment that it is. I think that might be a role for the
CCS to undertake but we think the good practice should be rolled
out whatever it is wherever it is.
623. Can we just change the legislation around
again. It seems the fuel crisis triggered changes to legislation
more so than 11 September. Mike Granatt, our Head of the Civil
Contingencies Secretariat, told us as long ago as January 16 that
as far as legislation is concerned "We are looking at a process
of putting this legislation together which will involve further
consultation and bringing forward something to Parliament that
reflects a consensus" which seems fairly laid back. When
would you like to see legislation put forward and would you like
to see a draft Bill published for further consultation?
(Mr Shuttleworth) From our point of view we would
like to see new legislation as soon as possible. We were pushing
for that before September 11 and we think that should have been
accelerated because of September 11. Yes, we would like to see
a draft Bill published for further consultation but we would like
to see it "as soon as possible". I know there are demands
on Parliamentary time. It was mentioned by the Council. There
does seem to be some all-party support for this sort of legislation
to come forward. We would like to see it there as soon as possible.
624. You have your chance today to reiterate
the fact that you are all united in the fact that you want legislation
as soon as possible
(Mr Shuttleworth) Yes.
625. Chairman, we have already been told by
Chris Leslie, the Minister, that the Civil Defence Grant will
be roughly the same for next year as this year. I understand we
have got £18.6 million further. Some of us read an article
in the North East Journal on Friday which said that Northumberland,
Durham and Cumbria would have their funds cut by 10 per cent or
above. What would that mean to your own geographic area?
(Mr Shuttleworth) The maximum loss of grant to any
authority now, the dampener, has been set at 10 per cent so no
local authority will lose more than 10 per cent but in some areas
like those it could mean as much as £30,000. Now that could
mean jobs, that could mean a job. The majority of our expenditure
in emergency planning are staff costs, probably 70-80 per cent
of our costs are staff. At this time when there is an increased
workload and no extra resources, if there is a cut that means
that something has to give.
626. What you are saying is in your area post
September 11 if you had that same 10 per cent cut, you would have
less people looking after the civil contingency planning than
you have at the moment at a time when we should be looking, I
would think, at an increase, therefore you would have a lower
level of service.
(Mr Shuttleworth) That is possible. Do not forget
the settlement was only, I think, about three days before the
end of the financial year so the local budgets had been set. So
local authorities were not able to commit that expenditure to
prop up the emergency planning service locally because it was
so late. There has not been for the last 10 years any increase
in that grant for pay and price increases. We are having to absorb
2 or 3 per cent each year anyway. It is a gradual reduction in
service. If you take that for the 10 years it is quite a reduction.
That is why we have put in such a bid.
627. Can I just change that round about then.
We know the North East are going to be 10 per cent worse off,
do you know, for example, where else is going to be worse off?
(Cllr Phillips) Yes, there is a great list of them
here, sir, of counties which will be reduced by that amount. With
the original proposal from the Government in respect of Cumbria,
the reduction there, which has been slightly altered now, of course,
was their allocation was £239,700, that would have been reduced
to £203,700, which is the equivalent of one job.
(Mr Shuttleworth) Yes.
(Cllr Phillips) Equally one under Durham, the figure
there, excluding Darlington, was £236,905 reduced to £201,369.
628. The basis of what you are saying is geographically
throughout the country there are going to have to be either job
cuts or cuts in services when we are looking at civil contingency
plans post September 11?
(Cllr Phillips) Yes. Bear in mind, of course, that
Ian Shuttleworth made the point that we had set our budgets on
the assumption that we would not necessarily be getting any more.
629. With respect, even if you had not set your
budget, once you are given this funding, by definition you would
need to cut back?
(Cllr Phillips) That is right.
630. You would be delivering a lower level of
service. I really want to make this clear: you would be delivering
a lower level of service post September 11 in civil contingency
(Mr Shuttleworth) Not everyone loses, let me make
(Mr Shuttleworth) There are some that do actually
get a bit more.
(Mr Griffin) And there remains the choice of the local
authority, the political choice, to fill that gap itself. Not
everybody loses, some will lose and reduce resources and reduce
the amount of work that is done. In some instances they will be
shifted on to the local taxpayer.
632. I would be interested to know which local
authorities have increased their budget voluntarily?
(Mr Shuttleworth) Some have. Some do provide additional
funds from their own resources because they do accept the importance
of the work when they are able to do that. Obviously that is a
decision that politicians have to make.
633. If you could write and list those for us
we will give you a sheet of paper in response. Councillor Phillips,
that document you read from, is it confidential?
(Cllr Phillips) Not that I know of.
634. Shall we give you a brown envelope and
you can post it on to me later.
(Cllr Phillips) By all means.
(Mr Shuttleworth) Can I just say, Chairman, that was
the original document that was produced. The grant was actually
changed slightly in the final document which came out. The formula
was changed within the last week of the financial year.
(Mr Griffin) That information is public information.
(Cllr Phillips) The information in the document that
I have just read those figures from shows the breakdown between
all the authorities and some in actual fact, to be perfectly fair,
East Riding of Yorkshire received a 20 per cent increase. It was
unitary authorities which mainly received that. The second document
that was produced only shows in actual fact the allocation to
each authority so really, you want both documents.
635. If you could show us a title when we finish,
(Cllr Phillips) By all means.
636. Can I just clarify. Does it just cover
England and Wales?
(Mr Shuttleworth) Yes.
637. Does it also cover Scotland?
(Mr Shuttleworth) England and Wales. The funding,
I think, for emergency planning is through the Scottish Executive,
I think, I am not quite certain. The document was produced by
the Cabinet Office so I am certain the Cabinet Office will be
able to give you the figures.
(Cllr Phillips) They can show the actual reductions
on the second list but I was only able to use the first list as
an illustration of the fact that the budget has been reduced.
Those figures, as Ian Shuttleworth said, were produced to us after
our budget had been settled and the rate had been fixed. Therefore
it is a cut which has got to be met during the financial year
or left by the elected members and cut in some other departments
such as education, social services or whatever it may be.
Chairman: Mr Roy will read the next question
to you but because time is running out could I ask the LGA to
drop us a note in reply?
638. Gentlemen, on information and communications,
do you believe that central government is prepared to share with
you sensitive or classified information relating to possible incidents
which your emergency plans are required to address?
(Mr Kerry) The short answer is the experience is the
Government does not share a great deal of sensitive information
with local authorities on emergency management. We would argue
that if we are to have proper partnership workings, develop properly
integrated plans, there needs to be some movement on that.
639. If the answer is going to be brief you
can answer the next one as well.
(Cllr Phillips) Could I just add to that in writing
on a very important point.
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