Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580-588)
RT HON MR NICK RAYNSFORD AND MR ANDREW WHETNALL
TUESDAY 14 MAY 2002
580. There is a thought that, perhaps, the regulations and guidance have been developed with unitary authorities in mind. Of course, there are many authorities who do not carry the clout of unitary authorities. What are your feelings on this, Minister?
(Mr Raynsford) The provisions have been developed very much with the intention of them applying in unitary authorities, in district councils, in county councils and metropolitan authorities.
581. So you are quite confident that the mechanisms in place represent an overview of all tiers?
(Mr Raynsford) The Standards Board is there to keep an overview of all tiers and the individual Standards Committees in individual authorities, obviously, are there to do that job in relation to that authority itself.
582. How important are the new political management arrangements going to be in the new corporate governance assessments?
(Mr Raynsford) The overall, comprehensive performance assessment that will be carried out by the Audit Commission will be looking at a whole range of factors, including the effectiveness of the arrangements for setting the strategic priorities for the authority and ensuring the authority meets its target.
583. How do you ensure this happens, Minister?
(Mr Raynsford) This is, again, a very complex subject that I will be happy to discuss with the Committee when, perhaps, there is more time to do so, perhaps at a future date. This is something which the Audit Commission and ourselves have given an enormous amount of attention to, in discussion with local government. Work is well advanced in putting in place the framework for the comprehensive performance assessments which will be completed for county councils, unitary authorities and metropolitan authorities at the end of this year and for district councils by the end of 2003.
Mr Cummings: Perhaps we can talk about it sometime in the future, Chairman
584. The White Paper. How soon is it going to be implemented in terms of changing or modifying the 2000 Act?
(Mr Raynsford) There are a series of arrangements which we are already putting in place to implement the White Paper proposals. There will be a continuing series of changes, some of which will require legislation, others of which can be carried out by order. As you will know, we published an implementation plan which sets milestones and identifies the responsible official, and we are proceeding on the basis that there will be progressive implementation of all the White Paper proposals over the next few months and years.
585. Will it be possible to put dates on to that?
(Mr Raynsford) There are dates on the milestones attached to all the targets within the White Paper119, I think I am right in saying.
586. All those dates are going to be achieved?
(Mr Raynsford) Our objective is to implement all of those. We cannot, obviously, do them all immediately, some depend on legislation. You will know that is something we are hoping to be able to bring forward but I cannot give any undertaking at the moment. Others can be done by means of orders and there we are already making good progress but have more to do.
587. So all the ones that can be done by order will be for the dates that are set out in that document?
(Mr Raynsford) I hesitate to forecast that there will not be any slippage at all because, as you can imagine, in carrying forward a very big programme across a wide range of areas there is inevitably a risk, particularly when certain issues are the subject of Parliamentary debateas is likely if we do have the opportunity for legislation in the coming session, when other issues are almost certainly likely to be raised. However, it is our objective to carry forward and to implement all the commitments in the White Paper in that orderly way against the timetable spelt out in the implementation plan.
588. Thank you very much.
(Mr Raynsford) Thank you.