Examination of Witness (Questions 220-230)|
TUESDAY 9 JULY 2002
220. There was no warning about it before the
(Mr Clark) I personally did not, no. That does not
mean the LGA did not but I personally did not.
221. In two days' time when you meet Ministers
(Mr Clark) Do not quote me but I think it is two days.
222. Are you planning to ask them what
is going to happen to the whole local government reform programme
in the light of the break-up of DTLR? Are you convinced as a long-time
professional in local government that the Office of the Deputy
Prime Minister has the capacity to achieve what the Government
wants it to achieve?
(Mr Clark) I am as convinced of that as I was that
Mr Byers would be able to give the time to local government when
he had transport on his back. That may sound a cynical answer;
it is not intended to be. It is still big. I suppose it was nice
to see the title "Local Government" in a Ministry once
upon a time but it came and went. I do not really have a great
concern, to be honest with you.
223. Can I ask on that point, given the whole
scope of what is taking place at the momentwe have just
had a Bill, now there is another Bill, we are going to have local
government reorganisation through the regional governmentis
this not placing an intolerable burden on the management of local
(Mr Clark) I certainly think it is stretching. We
are not intending to indulge ourselves in the regional agenda
save to say that my experience in York through having talked to
colleaguesI arrived after the war had taken place, it was
already a unitarywas that concentrating on structure paralyses
service delivery for a considerable amount of time. I recall the
Chairman of Nestlé UK based in York talking to me about
reorganisations in general. He said he had never undertaken one
that really delivered shareholder value and if things were not
broken, trying to restructure them is an act of madness. He was
referring to elected mayors and cabinets at the time!
224. This again may be a slightly premature
question but the four categories referred in the White Paper are
"high performing", "striving", "coasting"
or "poor performing". Which would you apply to the Office
of the Deputy Prime Minister?
(Mr Clark) This is a great one because I can judge
this. They have changed it since the White Paper and there are
now four or five. I do not know. I think it is rather unfair of
me to judge a mewling infant. It is only been around for a few
weeks and will not have got its act together yet, so may I come
back in a little while?
Sir Paul Beresford: When it needs its nappy
225. You have just told us that there are five
categories. If I arrived and wanted to do an inspection of your
authority under four classifications which had only been there
for a very short time and said, "I will come back in six
months and tell you what category you have achieved," would
you be surprised?
(Mr Clark) We were treated in that way. When York
was a new unitary, two inspections were put off because we were
so new. It seemed perfectly reasonable and I was rather grateful
at the time.
226. How do you think the proposals will impact
on the relationship between local authorities and other government
departments like Health and the Department for Education and Skills?
(Mr Clark) Proposals with specific reference to CPA?
227. No in general, not just CPA, the whole
of the draft Bill?
(Mr Clark) I am not sure. It is a question that I
have not even considered. My initial view off the top of my head
would be that part of it smacks as though it will not have much
change at all. In terms of the overall judgment of authorities
I have already said in reference to trading standards it is a
sadness, but an understandable one, that if one is incapable of
convincing the Department of Health and the DES of what one is
doing, then you do not get a chance to convince anybody else about
anything else. I suppose given it is 80 per cent of everything,
it is possibly understandable.
228. Are there any further major changes or
additions you would like to see in the Bill apart from the things
you have mentioned?
(Mr Clark) No nothing that I particularly raised.
I have not had the opportunity to say that one good thing that
is in the Bill is something I have personally believed in ever
since I have been in the job, which is the idea that combined
fire authorities should be precepting and should be accountable
to their populations as opposed to being able to hide in a cupboard
and plunder the budgets of local authorities in ways that are
wholly impossible for the taxpayer to work out, and whoever put
that in there would get wholehearted applause from every new unitary
that I have ever come across.
229. The Government has a commitment to the
repeal of the old Clause 28 of notorious fame. Ought that be included
in this legislation?
(Mr Clark) That is a matter for them, not a matter
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very
much for your evidence.
230. Do come back when you have considered the
(Mr Clark) I will always come if invited, thank you.