Examination of Witness (Questions 180-199)|
TUESDAY 9 JULY 2002
180. Why should they not benefit, therefore,
from knowing that they operate differently from, say, Croydon?
(Mr Clark) I think one can become complacent. It is
always beholden upon us to make sure that we are striving to be
the best in class. Let us take a small example of children with
special needs. It is very difficult for a family with a child
with special needs at the moment to contrast whether we are doing
a good job or not, unless they can see what is happening in other
areas. They will say, "Hang on, if they can do it in Bristol,
or Swindon or wherever, why on earth can't you?" I think
it is actually quite good for them to be able to do that. The
day will come when people are connected to the internet to be
able to do that, but I do not think that is here yet.
181. Provided they are all starting from the
(Mr Clark) Who are starting from the same base?
182. The local authorities against whom they
are judging the services. Surely local authorities exist to give
locally elected councillors the right to supervise the production
of services that the people in that area require?
(Mr Clark) Yes, that is one of the reasons they exist,
but the other reason they exist is to be the local arm delivering
nationally determined services.
Mrs Dunwoody: I am not sure that is quite right.
183. So yes, you are talking about local administration?
(Mr Clark) No, I am talking about the fact that there
are bits of both; that you can easily develop and control issues,
but that has no reference to a lot of parliamentary issues about
tree preservation and so on and so forth. I do not think there
is any Member of this Houseand certainly I would not myselfwho
would not say that part of the delivery of education is actually
partly nationally determined and partly locally determined, and
that seems to me understandable.
184. Could you perhaps itemise for us the changes
that you would like to see incorporated in the Bill to improve
the clauses on CPA?
(Mr Clark) Yes. I would like to see a real wish list
for me of how I would want to see those sorts of things. Firstly,
I would like to see the CPA just kept secret for six months. Why
would I like that? It is because I think that would encourage
people to change, to make plans and elect to do things in those
six months that you would not get if you simply shamed them and
demoralised them. That is the one management experience I have
seen some people doing. Just shouting at people does work for
a bit, but not very long, and actually giving them a chance to
improve themselves I think would be a good thing. I would like
to see an opportunity for those who are undertaking an inspection
role to be trained more heavily, so that gives me a time frame
issue with the current one. I would like to see something in it
about how the services are to be moderated, really to take the
point that came from over here, which was yes, if local authorities
start from the same base. Quite clearly, they do not, they have
different issues and different circumstances. So the trick there
is not actually changing the formula necessarily, it is the moderation
process which comes after that, which seems to me to be something
that is still very, very difficult and is in all inspections.
Finally, I would like to see something about respecting the endeavours
of organisations and of individuals slightly more than just their
pure outcomes, because I regret, I think, from time to time I
was as guilty as anyone of what gets done is what is being measured,
as opposed to knowing the point to get what local people actually
want. I think some way of incorporating that in here would be
185. It is very difficult, is it not?
(Mr Clark) Yes, it is.
186. Taking league tablesand really you
are talking about football teamsit is not much consolation
to say that the team got relegated but played attractive football,
(Mr Clark) No, but coming from York, of course, we
do not talk too much about football. No, it is not, but on the
other hand it is not really very fair on a rather good trading
standards officer and a very good trading standards department
to be damned for all time merely because something went wrong
in social services. I think one has to be a little bit cautious
about making overall judgements like that that could demoralise
very, very good people for reasons well beyond their control.
187. You also want to keep it secret for six
months, do you not?
(Mr Clark) Yes.
188. Do you think secrets can be kept for six
(Mr Clark) It is the sort of secret that will almost
certainly leak, but until it is official it is not really there.
I would not mind that. I cannot recall now, was it Galileo who
was showing instruments of torture and therefore people were being
tortured without that having to be used. It seems to me that that
is rather a management practice to be encouraged, rather than
actually forcing them to see what is right and that actually something
might happen in the end.
189. What changes would you like to see in the
Bill, and what should the Bill entail in relation to the rationalisation
of inspection services?
(Mr Clark) It is so very difficult. I think that one
of the things one might do is give some view to saying that there
are some generic elements that are inspected right across in all
of the inspections. I am someone who has enjoyed being examined
by all of the inquisitors. I would like to have seen some interdepartmental
work on there being one inspection of all of this stuff, and then
if that is found to be okay, we will simply make it an exception
sample, leave everything out. I think it is the LGA who estimate
that nearly two years ago now the cost of inspection was running
at something like £700 million, but that was just indirect
costs, as I recall, not in the actual costs to the authority,
because for every pound the Government is spending on this the
authority is spending £2 or £3 trying to get it right,
and the sheer burden is something to behold. I think that in one
year we had four, which included Customs and Excise coming to
check our petty cash, for reasons which quite escape me. I think
we effectively lost four months of our chief finance officer.
190. Having identified where the areas of concern
lie, your memorandum really is quite scathing. You talk about
missed opportunity and you talk about "silo" mentality,
do you not?
(Mr Clark) Yes, I do.
191. Really what do you wish to see in the Bill?
(Mr Clark) I would like to see a comprehensive inspection
of the local authorities that includes all the elements that individual
ministers may need to satisfy themselves that programmes are being
delivered, but that it is a one-stop shop for inspection services
rather than the plethora that we have.
192. So are you saying that the Government does
not have a real desire to see these changes, because of this "silo"
(Mr Clark) No, I am certainly not saying the Government
has no desire. I am simply saying that that desire is not converted
into practice within this draft Bill.
193. In here you say "A Government with
a real desire". You are essentially just playing with words,
are you not?
(Mr Clark) No, I am not. Forgive me, no, I certainly
did not say that. Forgive me, I am not saying that. I am simply
saying that it is not only ridiculously difficult as far as I
(Mr Clark) Do you believe the Government's proposals
on formula grant do anything to reduce the number of ring-fenced
funding streams which local authorities have to manage?
(Mr Clark) I think that is a question of political
will. I do not think there is a formulaic solution to ring-fence
problems. I do think that it is almost certainly more likely if
the Treasury identifies, as I believe they have, that one of the
things that puts up council tax rolls is actually ring-fencing
of grantsmore likely do it in the Bill.
194. Are you saying that that will not work,
or that there will be inbuilt resistance towards the Bill?
(Mr Clark) I am saying the latter.
195. There will be resistance from local authorities
to make it work?
(Mr Clark) No, I am saying there is resistance to
having ring-fencing reduced, but I did not say that it was within
196. Would you care to elaborate further on
(Mr Clark) There are two ends to a piece of string,
are there not? One end is local government, the other end would
appear to be government departments, so I suppose I must be fingering
them as at fault.
197. Are you doing that?
(Mr Clark) I suppose I must be.
198. Do you believe that measures were needed
in the Bill to reduce the amount of red tape and the number of
plans that councils have to produce?
(Mr Clark) Absolutely, and particularly smaller councils.
It must be the case. My neighbouring authority, Ryedale, for example,
which has something like of the order of 150 staff, still has
to produce 36 statutory plans and so on and so forth. Again, we
have had some colleagues working with officials from the Office
of the Deputy Prime Minister on some of that, and it is only to
199. Do you believe the Bill should be used
to streamline Best Value?
(Mr Clark) Yes. I think that Best Value was mired
in a plethoraa point that was being made earlier on by
the Chairmanof regulations, and what was once a really
rather good management idea has become regrettably a professionalised
offshoot of an industry, so you can always spot that when, instead
of appointing a manager you appoint a Best Value officer, which
always strikes me as odd.