Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280
WEDNESDAY 15 MAY 2002
280. I am specifically looking at the co-ordination
your Departments have with the DWP. The DWP is obviously undergoing
a huge process of change and the amalgamation of the Employment
Service and the Benefits Agency is the merging of two big organisations,
big cultural distinct empires. To what extent do you consider
that merging process is actually affecting your ability to liaise
with Jobcentre Plus? Has the DWP and Jobcentre Plus started to
look inwards because it is so involved in its reorganisation so
the actual hope that you have of working in partnership with them
is hindered in any way? Does it mean that there are barriers to
getting a co-ordinated approach in tackling unemployment?
(Mr Lauener) Any major reorganisation, and clearly
the formation of DWP and Jobcentre Plus is a major change, puts
pressure on an organisation but I have to say I have not found
difficulty in securing the co-operation and the involvement of
Jobcentre Plus colleagues or DWP colleagues in things that we
are taking forward. For example, the work that we are doing with
the Learning and Skills Council to develop arrangements for providers
where the same provider might be operating for Jobcentre Plus
and the Learning and Skills Council, we have Jobcentre Plus involved
on these key groups, they attend regularly and they provide a
very full contribution. I recognise the strains on any organisation
but I have not found it a problem.
(Mr Beatson) As for Peter, I think relationships seem
to be working very well.
(Mr Riddell) Could I just add, the Departments I have
worked in, we have always found the Employment Service very good
at joint working and what is happening now is it is bringing the
wider Benefits Agency into that. We would expect an improvement.
The Employment Service has always been very good at regional and
local levels as well at working with others.
281. None of that has been lost with the fact
the Benefits Agency has come in as well?
(Mr Riddell) As Peter said, obviously there are organisation
and transition things, taking one's eyes off the ball. One improvement
is they are now coterminous with all the Government organisations
which they were not before. That is a big help. It is at that
level that you most need often to work together.
(Mr Lauener) There is a better match at local level
as well with the local Learning and Skills Councils. It is not
perfect but there is a better match.
282. The potential there is actually that once
things move on it will be better.
(Mr Lauener) Yes.
283. The reason you are here today is because
you are all responsible along with the DWP for delivering the
Government's employment strategy. Is there one lead Department
or is it the case that you get on with what you each do best and
there is co-ordination? Are the old departmental boundaries still
intact or is there a lot of cross-working with regard to the employment
strategy? Who calls the shots?
(Mr Lauener) My answer would be the DWP are clearly
the lead on the employment strategy. In our Department we are
clearly in the lead on the Skills Strategy and John Healey is
the Minister for Skills across Government. He has a particular
responsibility for liaising with ministerial colleagues in the
DWP on the links between the skills and the employment strategies
which are absolutely critical.
284. Is it the DWP then that makes sure there
is no overlap in what you are all delivering? Do you know if there
is an overlap?
(Mr Riddell) Of course there is potential overlap
in what we are all delivering. The way the Government strategy
has moved, of course there is more working at Whitehall level.
The Government offices which three or four years ago worked only
to three Departments now work to nine Departments. They do much
less direct programme delivery and they have a specific role,
the regional directorssince the Performance and Innovation
Unit's report Reaching Outin ensuring that things
are joined up as they come down from Whitehall towards the local
level. I noticed you had evidence earlier from the Luton-Vauxhall
partnership, that is a good example where all the Departments
concerned, the DTLR, the DTI, the RDA itself and the DWP, all
put in different strands of money. Where there was a problem with
one strand of money they found a way round it and put it in a
different strand. So we had accelerated transport projects, extra
DTI money and extra Employment Service money that all went in
to support the Luton partnership which has now been merged within
community forum or local strategic partnerships. A lot of that
work takes place below Whitehall level and that feeds back up
because there is a lot of effort now to co-ordinate. I have got
people from the DWP in my unit and from the DfES.
285. The actual cross working is as close as
(Mr Riddell) It is not always perfect all the time.
286. What about if one of your Departments fails
to meet an employment target? We have heard quite a lot this morning
about "We know the will is there, perhaps the strategy is
there but whether it is delivering on the ground". Who takes
responsibility for, I was going to say, kicking butt, you know
what I mean, making sure if there are these gaps in provision
that have been identifiedwho is responsible for identifying
the gaps in provisionthat the gaps are filled and where
the strategy is not actually working to ensure that it is changed,
it is tweaked, it is reconfigured in order to make it work?
(Mr Lauener) One point I would make on that is the
focus the Government has had on targets and then on supporting
the key PSA and other targets with delivery plans is actually
forcing much greater clarity of thinking about who needs to do
what to reach a particular target. That greater clarity for example,
I come back again to the basic skills target, is making it quite
clear to us in the DfES who leads on that target, what contribution
we need to expect from the DWP and Jobcentre Plus to meet that
target. Then that needs to be codified and agreed and we need
agreement about exactly what is going to happen. If that does
not happen there is a clear line back, you know, "You agreed
you would do that but you have not". I think that kind of
clarity is a good thing to produce. That can come from targets.
At a strategic level it is clearly less focused on particular
measurables, is it not, and I think it is important to have high
level discussions between Ministers and between senior officials.
287. Are you convinced that where the strategy
is found wanting, that it is not delivering, that there are mechanisms
in place across all Departments and the DWP to ensure that is
changed, to ensure either the policy changes because the policy
is wrong or the strategy changes because it is not delivering
what it is intended to deliver? How confident are you that what
you have in place is responsive to this?
(Mr Riddell) The trouble is you cannot be too simplistic
about that. It may be something where a national strategy is clearly
not delivering. Where you come across something where there is
a gap it takes longer to work through who might be responsible.
All I can say is that there is actually much more feedback now
than there ever used to be. There are actually Cabinet committees
now who have the responsibility. The DA(SER)
Committee, which John Prescott chairs, has the responsibility
for taking delivery of messages that come up from local level
about things which are not working or gaps. These things are supposed
to be fed through policy making but it is pretty complex. Some
things are quicker than others.
288. The reason I have been asking those questions
is because we have some concerns that overall there are more people
in work, unemployment appears to be coming down but there are
serious problems in particular areas with particular groups. It
is whether the strategy you have all got in place is so broad
brush that, yes, they are working in the areas they are going
to work in anyway but in fact they are not targeted as directly
as they need to be for particular groups, whether it is ethnic
minorities, whether it is in the areas of local authorities who
are not delivering a particularly effective employment strategy.
How good are you at making sure that the employment strategy is
targeting these areas and these groups and the co-ordination with
the DWP and the Jobcentre Plus is working?
(Mr Lauener) Again, if I can offer a view on that.
I think we are quite good where we have got the precision of national
targets which can be drilled down. I think maybe we are less good
where there is a less specific target. I think the frameworks
which have been put in place are good and have the potential whether
it is a Local Strategic Partnership or the local planning that
the LSC is producing in the education, training and skills area.
I think these are good mechanisms which encourage and force local
partners to work effectively together. A lot of these things do
need to be sorted out locally but we need to be able to drill
down when we get messages or figures or surveys or whatever that
show things are beginning to go wrong. I think we have the framework
through which local partners can make things happen locally. We
have got a lot of key national targets which we do drill down
on in the way that I have described but we need to be alive to
feedback where there may be particular issues which may not be
happening locally which we may need to drill down on. I think
that is where Alan's point comes in about the issue about feedback
and making sure there is a process.
(Mr Riddell) Yes. I think, for example, in somewhere
like Easington it is very difficult to deliver the success of
the policy just because the possibilities of economic growth are
so limited, so many people are out of the market for one reason
or another, Incapacity Benefit or whatever, it is very difficult
to deliver success there. With the RDAs and the Government Offices
and the local agencies, they are all expected to pull together
and have a local strategy. Each region, for example, in the spending
round put in a paper to the Treasury on regional priorities and
that was sitting there as part of the template for looking at
issues. These things are not perfect but they are much, much better
than they were just a few years ago. We are certainly very good
at identifying the problems but bringing it right through to being
absolutely sure that we got the right solutions is more difficult.
(Mr Riley) If I could just add something on the local
public service agreement system. The local PSAs may include targets
for employment. It is not mandatory, it depends on the circumstances.
But in so far as they do, then local authorities will have a strong
financial incentive to achieve these targets because the Government
rewards local authorities who achieve their targets, as measured
at the end of the period to which they apply, with additional
grant. There is a mechanism in place to provide incentives for
the achievement of targets.
289. We are talking about co-ordination and
you are obviously senior and distinguished in your own Departments
but have you met before? How much liaison have you had before?
(Mr Riddell) Three of the four of us meet quite often.
I do not know Mark at all.
290. That is a pass mark.
(Mr Beatson) I used to work with Chris.
291. There is a series of quite technical but
important questions about RDA frameworks. I understand that last
July the Government invited the regional development organisations
to put frameworks in place, I think by October 2002 if my memory
serves me accurately. Which of your three Departments would be
most appropriate to address a couple of written questions to by
way of a note from us?
(Mr Beatson) It is the DTI.
Chairman: It is the DTI more than anyone else.
Mark, if you would take that on it would save us some time because
they are of a technical nature.
292. One of the things we have heard from the
various skills providers over the course of this inquiry is the
plethora of different schemes run by Government with different
application forms, different timescales, different rules and regulations
resulting in a great deal of duplication of effort filling in
lots of different forms which frankly is very difficult and time
consuming. To what extent do you try and co-ordinate all of these
schemes between you so that you can try and minimise this red
tape and allow people to get on with the job instead of having
to chase the funding stream from all sorts of different sources
at the same time?
(Mr Riddell) I do not think you will find anyone in
the Government who disagrees with that.
293. What are you doing about it then?
(Mr Riddell) There are several cross-cutting studies
going on as part of the Spending Review. There is one on regeneration
spending, there is one on voluntary sector spending.
294. Could we have a list of these cross-cutting
(Mr Riley) I think they are on the Treasury website.
295. Of course.
(Mr Riddell) We can certainly provide that.
296. The answer to everything is on the Treasury
(Mr Riddell) We can certainly send it in. One of the
things I am trying to do just now is talking to other Departments,
even if we cannot reduce the number of streams, to try and simplify
the application procedures and the monitoring procedures and so
on. The message we get from local level is we cannot get rid of
all these funding streams. That is very difficult because twice
in my career we have set up the SRB and before that the Urban
Programme, they manage for a year or two and then people come
and set up other new initiatives. At the moment we are trying
a second strand of simplifying the application procedures and
monitoring, which I think we would have to do at regional level,
but that work is not very far advanced I have to say.
(Mr Lauener) This is possibly the most difficult challenge
you have given us this morning. The two things particularly between
ourselves and the DWP but also involving other Departments is
we are developing arrangements for the co-financing of the European
Social Fund which I think will significantly streamline the
297. Do you mean match fund? When you say co-financing
do you mean providing the matching funding to access the ESF?
(Mr Lauener) The co-financing model is where organisations
like Jobcentre Plus and the Learning and Skills Council become
the co-financing organisations, they do the matching funding at
that level and that should take a lot of the
298. I did not think that was allowed under
the EU rules, central government could not provide match funding.
(Mr Lauener) The proposals for co-financing have been
agreed with the EU. I think many other countries do very similar
things. We expect that will lead to significant savings in effort
and also risk at local level where there have been many cases
where providers have put a lot of effort into these bids sometimes
for no return or sometimes they end up with something that does
not work and they have a big repayment. That is a significant
improvement. The second one is much more of a cross-departmental
initiative, something called "Getting the Best from Each
Other" which started within the old Department for Education
and Employment and has been taken forward now in a number of Departments,
including the Home Office and the Regional Co-ordination Unit.
That is to establish a set of principles and to some extent a
common database for working with the voluntary sector and other
providers, not just for training but also community support services.
We hope that will establish a common framework for managing those
relationships and it is widely welcomed.
(Mr Riddell) The Neighbourhood Renewal Fund in itself
comes in as a block grant where there are not the usual grant
claim procedures and it goes effectively to the local authority
so you do not have to put in all the forms to the Department in
the way you did with the SRB. There are certain things going on
just to make it easier.
(Mr Beatson) In terms of the DTI the creation of the
Small Business Service itself was designed principally for that,
to have one place where small businesses can seek advice. The
Department is currently reviewing its own structure and the plethora
of schemes for business support. Of course, one observation on
this is one tends to find that there are a multiplicity of problems
and that generates a demand for a multiplicity of potential solutions.
It is a constant tension managing the process between simplicity
and delivery and designing interventions which tackle specifically
the problems that businesses and individuals face.
299. Perhaps Alan could give us a note, I will
not go into detail now, about the links between urban regeneration
projects and the intermediate labour market and to what extent
you are working with the DWP on that.
The question for all three of you is we have looked at your individual
work and the work between you but what we have not examined is
how you feel co-ordination could be improved between your individual
Departments and the DWP, where there is potential for a greater,
closer working relationship?
(Mr Lauener) I have probably commented most about
that already. Because of our shared history we have worked well
with DWP which now brings in the Benefits Agency. But we have
got a history with the Department for Education and Employment,
we have got good working links. In my own particular case I see
a lot of Jobcentre Plus colleagues on the train from Sheffield
to London, so I can strongly recommend that as a good networking
process. The big thing for us is to make sure that we put in the
mechanisms and processes and think hard where we are setting up
groups that we involve each other so that we do not operate just
on the basis of the fact that we know each other quite well because
that will last for two or three years and then run down but that
needs to be constantly refreshed. I think the Department at senior
level and ministerial level need to have frequent dialogue, and
(Mr Beatson) Yes. Clearly there is ministerial dialogue
between the DTI and indeed DfES which is a regular and important
part of this. I have said already, relationships seem to work
16 Domestic Affairs (Social Exclusion and Regeneration). Back
Please refer to the supplementary memorandum submitted by the
Department for Transport-formerly the DTLR- (ES 12A), Ev 127. Back
Please refer to the supplementary memorandum submitted by the
Department for Transport-formerly the DTLR-(ES 12A) Ev 127. Back