Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)
LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON, QC, MS SALLY KEEBLE, MS JOYCE BRIDGES AND MR PETER MATTHEW
TUESDAY 21 MAY 2002
20. How do you measure your success rate?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think there is a real problem about how you measure success. One of the things that the Cross Cutting Review focusses on is what measures of success are there? Are there adequate measures of success? If there are not, how do you create them? Without those measures of success people will not be able to see what their local authority are doing. Equally, if one of the intentions is to provide incentives to peoplelocal authorities to improve public spaceyou will not know to whom to provide rewards unless you know who is doing what.
21. Public patience is certainly being stretched to its limit at the present time. Everyone seems to be offloading responsibility on to someone else. The figures are quite startling. Since regulations were brought forward in this House to deal with social disorder there have been virtually no Anti-Social Behaviour Orders issued. Why?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In some places they have been used effectively. If one looks, for example, at Manchester they have used Anti-Social Behaviour Orders effectively. They have got procedures in place whereby they can get them, and get them quickly. Good practice in some local authorities can be replicated. We recognise that there are some procedural difficulties, and the Home Office have made announcements about how they will streamline the process of making it easier.
22. At the present time everyone in authority is being made a laughing stock of?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think every single
23. My area, of which I have first-hand knowledge, is certainly no different from hundreds of others throughout the country?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am told the total number of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders which have been granted is 518. I think what we need to do is spread best practice so people know how it can be done; and also to look to see where the procedural ditches are, which is what the Home Office have done, and then introduce changes to make it easier.
24. Local consultation has shown that one of the reasons people are often scared of using parks and public spaces is their perceived fear comes from the presence of large groups of young people and teenagers, which puts off other teenagers as well as all age groups. Have the Urban Green Spaces Task Force or the Cross Cutting Review considered this particular problem, and what have been their recommendations?
(Ms Keeble) We have looked at that. One of the things we did was to do some research amongst young people, looking at the 13-18 year old age range. We looked at the type of activities they required. One of the recommendations contained in the report and the supporting documents is about the need to make sure that parks and green spaces cater for children and young peoplerecognising that older children have got very different needs from the tiny tots and you have to make proper provision for them. That is something we have recognised.
25. I want to refer to the new buzz word, Minister, "liveability" as communicated by the Prime Minister. How do we measure liveability? What targets has the Government set for it What action will your Department be taking to ensure that it meets these targets?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have heard of the buzz word "liveability" as well.
26. You were not responsible for passing it on, were you?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have been responsible from time to time for passing it on, but I certainly did not invent it. I think it is trying to convey the idea that the place in which you live, when you step outside your front door, is somewhere where you actually want to be. It is somewhere which is liveable; and somewhere where you are comfortable. It goes back to the question you asked a few moments ago: are there sufficient targets, for example, about litter, about graffiti, about abandoned cars, about levels of anti-social behaviour and about usability of public parks? There most certainly are not at the moment. The only real guide and best value indicators that there are at the moment is a three-yearly customer satisfaction survey about recreational spaces in the area. We do not think that is enough. One of the things that the Cross Cutting Review has been focussing on particularly is how do you develop measures, targets, indications to the people both locally and at the central government level, who is doing well and who is doing badly. Without those measures, as I say, you will not know who to reward, and you will not be able to identify who is doing badly in relation to the issue.
27. Can you just give us one example?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) One way of looking at it is to have a range of indicators like customer satisfaction with green spaces, amount of use of green spaces, levels of crime and-anti-social behaviour, quantities of litter, quantity of complaints about litter. I think the more one looks at it the more one sees you have to have a range of indicators producing a result at the end.
28. Who would be responsible for ensuring priorities are met?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The person almost primarily responsible would be the local authority in most cases.
29. The Committee understand that the Government has dropped some of the best value public space indicators. Has this made it more difficult to monitor progress?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The only best value performance indicator on public space we have got is the customer satisfaction survey. Some best value indicators have been dropped but I do not think they related to green space, but I may be wrong about this.
(Ms Bridges) There needs to be a rationalisation of best value indicators. The problem is, there is no single best value performance indicator covering performance on public spaces or green spaces. What we had was a rather disparate group of best value indicators.
30. We had some proxies in the past and you got rid of those. Can you just remind us which of those proxies you got rid of?
(Ms Bridges) We are not sure.
31. Perhaps we could have a note.
(Ms Keeble) On the green spaces indicator, there was a lot of discussion in the Task Force about those, and about the value and use of them. We had looked at having a couple based on customer satisfaction. In the end we decided to go for locally-determined indicators, which would be about the usage level and also local satisfaction with the spaces. That is what the Task Force recommended rather than having single national indicators.
32. To what extent will green spaces feature in the Urban Summit programme which is to be held in Birmingham in October/November?
(Ms Bridges) We are currently finalising a programme for the Urban Summit, but there will be a series of Cross Cutting theme sessions, probably about 20 sessions, one of which will be about green spaces in the city and all the issues around the green spaces. There will certainly be another session on the whole public space agenda, and probably one on urban design as well. The agenda will be covered both in individual sessions, but also with the threads running through quite a lot of the discussions. We plan to publish the programme next month.
33. The Commission for Integrated Transport found that the United Kingdom has the lowest amount of walking per capita in Europe. What do you intend to do about this?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is an incredibly important issue. It very much contributes to the quality of space. It is something which has got to be taken up in transport planning, and is being taken up in transport planning, but it connects in with the public space agenda.
34. What does mean?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It means: do we take seriously the fact that people have to find it easier to walk on the streets? Answer: yes, we do. Is that the position now? No, it is not. Therefore, we need to raise that issue up. It cannot be done just by the public space agenda alone; it also has to be reflected in transport planning in the long term.
35. Which is also part of your responsibilitynot you personally. Could you give us a four-point plan of how you get from here to there?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I cannot give you a four-point plan in relation to it, but the importance of it is recognised and it has got to play a part in relation to the public space agenda overall.
(Ms Keeble) It is actually one of my responsibilities.
36. Life is full of little problems!
(Ms Keeble) I know. Under the typology of green spaces, which is what the select committee asked about last time, we have recognised the importance of linear parks, canal walkways and things like that. That obviously helps if you are putting together a strategy to help and encourage people to walk. Amongst the issues the Department is doing to promote walking has been issues like supporting moves to get children walking to school; safety with their friends; walking and cycling to work. There is a range of measures and packs of information we have done on that as well. We are also promoting tourism without traffic, which looks at environmentally friendly ways to have holidays which encourages walking as well as a leisure activity. We are doing quite a lot of work. Also targets which are promoted through the local transport plans.
37. Is not Sheffield City Council flying in the face of everything you have just told us? They intend to double the period of time for pedestrians crossing roads in order to ease congestion.
(Ms Keeble) Obviously it is down to local authorities to follow through on their transport plans. For example, the work on walking to work and walking to schools is also down through employer groups, and also through education authorities. You are going to get local authorities which take particular decisions for particular reasons, and that might be related to congestion. They might also have a separate strategy for walking. We have got measures in place to encourage walking in a whole range of different settings.
38. Is it not really true that the car is much more important than people in most local authority strategies at the moment?
(Ms Keeble) If you look at town centre design, I think increasingly that is not becoming the case. That is really Charlie's patch more than mine. If you actually look at town centre design, if you look at places like Newcastle, which is a particularly good example, and Birmingham, they are in fact going to great lengths to give pedestrians priority in the town centre areas. Some of them are doing very innovative work.
39. We will come on to town centres in a moment. Part of this discussion about liveability is what is outside your front door. I have a constituent who came to my advice bureau on Friday complaining that his children could not safely cross the corner of the street because of the level of parked cars. Is that not an indication that actually liveability is being reduced because of the number of cars we have got in some of our tightly drawn urban areas?
(Ms Keeble) If you also look at some of the measures coming out of this Department, they actually encourage much more constructive use of streets and pavements. For example, if you look at the Home Zones Initiative which actually redesigns residential areas to make sure, yes, people can park outside their front door, which is what people want, but also they are designed in such a way that the public can also use those spaces much more safely, and we do not get the cars dominating the public areas and they can be properly used by members of the public, pedestrians and children wanting to play and the rest of it.