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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 902-ii
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION Committee
SMALLER GOVERNMENT: BIGGER SOCIETY?
Thursday 9 June 2011
Gareth Davies, Matthew Taylor, Andrew Haldenby
and Adrian Brown
Evidence heard in Public Questions 154 - 252
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Taken before the Public Administration Committee
on Thursday 9 June 2011
Mr Bernard Jenkin (Chair)
Nick de Bois
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Gareth Davies, Head, Office of Civil Society, Cabinet Office, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, RSA, Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reform, and Adrian Brown, Associate Fellow, Institute for Government, gave evidence.
Q154 Chair: Welcome to this session of the Public Administration Select Committee on the Big Society. We very much want to concentrate on what this means for the Government, and what Ministers and civil servants should be doing, rather than dwell too much on the broader philosophical questions raised by the Big Society. We do not think that as a committee we will reach a massive amount of agreement on the more political aspects of it, but will be able to agree on some recommendations about how the administration should approach the issue. For the record, may I welcome you and ask each to identify himself?
Adrian Brown: My name is Adrian Brown and I am an associate at the Institute for Government.
Andrew Haldenby: I am Andrew Haldenby, Director of Reform.
Gareth Davies: I am Gareth Davies, Head of the Office of Civil Society.
Matthew Taylor: I am Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA.
Q155 Chair: Thank you very much indeed. What are the limits to the Government’s role in enabling the Big Society? Who would like to start?
Gareth Davies: Shall I start in terms of what we are doing both in the Cabinet Office and around Whitehall more generally?
Chair: That would be very helpful.
Gareth Davies: As to how Ministers see the role of Whitehall in delivering the Big Society, I would like to make three key points. First, it is to do with one-off reforms, so effectively it is implementing the coalition programme for Government. These are the reforms that you see in the Localism Bill and the Department for Education with free schools and academies. They are the one-off reforms that Whitehall needs to make, effectively giving up the power it used to have. The second thing is the opening up of the supply of public services and diversity of supply. This is not about moving necessarily just from the public to the private sector; it is about moving to a range of providers to see who is best suited to meet the needs of communities and individuals.
Q156 Chair: So, that is about how to identify those best providers?
Gareth Davies: That is a commissioning role of Whitehall. A good example of that is the work programme. Indeed, we are seeing a range of providers being brought in-300 from the voluntary and community sectors and a couple of prime contractors. That is the second role. The third role is a new one that is certainly different from some of the skills we have seen in Whitehall over the last decade, if not more. That is the mobilisation and incubation of new ideas. Rather than taking power and solving problems ourselves in the centre, it is about how we can help others, be they individuals or businesses, to solve their own problems; it is about promoting social action. It comes out of some of the theories of behaviour change and nudge. We have the behaviour change unit in the Cabinet Office. A good example of this is the recent work of the Department of Health on preventative health. We have an agreement with a number of food manufacturers to reduce salt content in food. For example, Asda has reduced the advertising of alcohol at the front of their stores but with a non-regulatory approach. So, it is a corralling, supporting and helping people to solve their own problems. Those are the three roles that we see in Whitehall.
Q157 Chair: Who would like to critique that answer?
Matthew Taylor: In a way, it is a pity that you are not having some conversation about what the concept is, although I understand why after your conversations at your last meeting you do not want to go there, because one of the things Government has to do is define it in a way that people understand. I think that is a weakness at the moment. The Big Society brand has become toxic. Therefore, it is quite difficult for Government to use their power to mobilise energy both inside and outside Government when there is a lack of clarity about the core concept. Government have to say what it is. I say that as someone who has a very clear idea of what it should be about, and who was and still is enthusiastic about the concept as I see it.
Q158 Chair: We have one question on this later on, and I suggest that we move to that question now and get it out of the way. In a nutshell, what is it? How should the Prime Minister more usefully describe it?
Matthew Taylor: I left No. 10 five years ago. The first annual lecture that I gave at the RSA-I do one every year, and it is my fifth tonight-was on what I called the social aspiration gap. It is an ugly phrase. What I meant by it was that there is a gap between the kind of future to which most people aspire and the future they are likely to create if they carry on thinking and behaving as they do now. If you like, this is a citizen-centric idea of change. It understands that the problem for society is how we encourage people to think and behave in ways they need to if we want to create the kind of future we want. There is a whole range of social problems from health to sustainability in relation to lots of public services, for example, where it is inconceivable that we can achieve our goals if people themselves do not choose to behave differently. It was Labour that first commissioned a report on behaviour change to start to explore that question, and that work has continued. For me, the heart of the Big Society is that insight. Government have to think very hard about how they encourage people to be the individuals they need to be to create the future they want. That is the starting point.
You then bring to that an idea that is broadly associated with the left and the right. From the right it is a kind of critique of central Government that there are lots of reasons why central Government find it hard to achieve what they try to achieve. There are systemic reasons why Government are not very good at engaging with people and getting things right. From the left it is a recognition that we are social animals, and that society and community matter and we need collective capacity. I think all of that is rich and important. As you heard in your last conversation, there are people on the left and right who are interested in these ideas. I think that is what it is about.
Briefly, I think the problem in relation to Government is that they have lacked clarity as to what the concept is about and have not told us how we would know it was happening. I think that is a major problem for Government. I understand the worry about having too many targets-under Labour there were too many-but to specify an objective but have no way to define whether or not it is being achieved seems to me to be an abrogation of accountability, and also it does not give public servants a framework to understand what they are trying to achieve.
The third thing is that you need to make the concept one that means something across Whitehall, where again I think there is a real weakness. The contrast I would draw is with Tony Blair’s approach to public service reform, which, whether you like it or not, had very strong core ideas. The core idea of public service reform was: public services, because there is no competition and profit, do not achieve the kinds of improvements in productivity that are achieved in the private sector. Therefore, you have to bring to the public sector pressures for improvement. The public service reform model was a strategic centre, contestability in provision, and voice and choice for consumers. That model was applied in various ways to education and health, and there was a kind of core to it that people understood. No. 10 basically fought across Whitehall to try to get that model accepted in one way or another with varying results. The Big Society does not have that kind of adamantine centre to it that you could take from department to department and say, "This is what it means for you." That would enable No. 10, which I think is woefully under-powered in driving this agenda, to have the kinds of battles it needs to have across Whitehall to make the Big Society win out across other views about power.
Q159 Chair: I am keen to let the conversation flow for a minute and then I will bring in one or two other colleagues. Mr Haldenby?
Andrew Haldenby: I very much agree with Matthew’s point about the absence of clarity about the idea. For example, one part of the Big Society in the Government’s view is opening up public service. It is something we look at a lot. We have been expecting a White Paper on the opening up of public services since January. The spending review last October promised that White Paper in January. Then the Prime Minister wrote an article in February to say it would be out within two months, and it is still not out. Many people both within and without Government are waiting for that, so that is another piece of evidence that there is not an intellectual definition for the idea. Particularly on the public services side, we have to observe that the Government’s position is changing. In particular, in the case of the NHS the Government have gone from a position of opening it up to competition with contestability within the NHS to something now very different. We do not quite know what it is going to be, but there will be much greater limits on that. The Prime Minister’s speech on Monday changed his position on targets within the NHS. He said he was now willing to reconsider central targets, for example on waiting times in the NHS, whereas when in opposition the Conservative Party campaigned against targets in public services. I think the Government are in retreat on public service reform, which further confuses the picture on what the Big Society is.
Adrian Brown: I would agree with a lot of what has already been said. I will have a crack at a simple definition and how I think about the Big Society, which I suppose is from the perspective of someone in Whitehall who is trying to make sense of it. It is the way that the Institute for Government tries to think about things. Traditionally, the state has thought of itself as deploying resources that have been collected from the public in the best way to deliver public services and the other things Government need to do. How can they deploy those resources most efficiently and effectively to deliver the services that they are asked to perform? I think the Big Society challenges the notion of the finite resource pool that is available to the state and says, "Think beyond just the money you have in your hands to try to deliver these public services and about the resources outside the state, be they from private individuals, private companies, charities or whatever, to help with the ends that the state is trying to achieve." So, it is expanding the idea of what resources are available. If you take that definition then the role of the state needs to be quite entrepreneurial. Harvard Business School defines entrepreneurialism as the pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources that you currently control. That is how the state and commissioners of public services need to think. They need to think, "What are we trying to achieve? What resources are available, whether or not they are in my control, out in society? How can I put together a package of resources that will enable those services to be delivered?" Whether or not I control those becomes less important if I am thinking more broadly and more entrepreneurially. I think that is what the Big Society means.
Chair: We will come back to the enabling question.
Q160 Paul Flynn: Perhaps I may say what a pleasure it is to meet four zealots for the Big Society. You are an endangered species, and we might not get the opportunity again. Mr Taylor, you have described the situation in Government as Cabinet Ministers laughing behind their hands at the Big Society. If it was toxic, from this morning the toxicity has probably become terminal, with the Archbishop of Canterbury saying that Big Society is viewed as an opportunistic cover for spending cuts. It was launched just under a year ago; it has been re-launched four times. Francis Maude said that he would be prepared to launch it 100 times before Christmas. Do you really believe that you can continue to try to resuscitate a dead parrot?
Matthew Taylor: This is going to be a difficult session if you think the four of us have demonstrated that we are zealots for the Big Society.
Q161 Paul Flynn: Well, you have.
Matthew Taylor: That simply is not what we said. The core insight that for society to flourish we need more capable and responsible citizens seems to me one that will last beyond the Big Society, because it is fundamentally true. If you look at a whole set of social challenges it is impossible to see how they can be met without a more capable and responsible citizenry. So, that is correct. For example, given the kind of brutalism of the Conservative model and ideology of the 1980s, it heartens me when David Cameron stands up in No. 10, as I heard him a few months ago, to say that the reason why people should give more back to society is not simply that society needs it, but that it is the path to living a more fulfilled life. That seems to me to be a big step forward from the kind of homo economicus view of the Thatcher period. I welcome that and think it is an issue that any Government would have to address.
In relation to the Big Society project I think some mistakes have been made. I do not want to go over the same ground, but here are a couple of examples. I have already said that I do not think No. 10 has driven the agenda hard enough and is now beefing itself up. When I worked in No. 10 on public service reform there was a strong sense of having to battle Whitehall departments, which for various reasons did not want to be radical and do things differently, and we were going in to fight. I do not think that No. 10 has been fighting like that, to be frank. It is starting to do so a bit more now, but I do not think it has. I am not sure whether, given its current political difficulties, it will be able to.
I also think that the mistake of the Big Society was that, on the one hand it implied there was nothing going on at the moment, which is nonsense and annoyed people, because obviously there is a huge amount of what the Government term the Big Society already going on, and then made a classic error. They should have learned from Labour in this regard. What you need to do in politics is under-promise and over-deliver. Of course, what happened with the Big Society was the reverse. Ministers talked about the Big Society as if it was something that would be created in the twinkling of an eye. One simply had to withdraw public services and civil society would flourish. The Big Society is a generational project. Had I been in charge of No. 10’s communication I would have said, "The Big Society is something we are aiming to achieve over the next 10 to 20 years. Everybody knows there is a lot we have to try to do. The next two or three years as we change the state will be very painful and difficult, and in many ways it will feel like society is getting smaller but this is a transition we have to go through." Unfortunately-politicians always fall into this-they could not avoid the hubris of saying, "We are creating something amazing now that never existed before we got into power." That has been disastrous.
Chair: I must ask you to keep your answers shorter.
Q162 Paul Flynn: Mr Taylor, I know that the last time you appeared before this Committee you wrote an article that was very critical of our questions, so we clearly decided to sharpen up this morning.
Matthew Taylor: I shall do so again.
Q163 Paul Flynn: Mr Davies, do you agree with that answer? Is it you who have fallen out? Is it the Government who have made a hash of this in the way it is communicated?
Gareth Davies: My responsibilities as head of the Office of Civil Society in the Cabinet Office are for its policies on the Big Society, specifically the National Citizen Service, community organisers, the Big Society bank and mutuals among others. I agree with Matthew that this is not going to happen over night; these reforms will take time both in terms of formally putting through the reforms, for example the Localism Bill is still going through Parliament, but also in terms of the culture change that is needed in both Whitehall and in the way policy is made. If you look at what is happening now in Whitehall and compare it with 12 months ago, it is a very different environment. Things have changed in terms of the use of PSA targets, central initiatives and central intervention in the front line, but the world has changed.
Paul Flynn: But have you over-promised and under-delivered? The man who introduced this, Lord Wei, has gone; you are attacked on all sides; you antagonised 84% of charities.
Q164 Chair: Let’s put that question to the other two witnesses.
Andrew Haldenby: Perhaps I may answer quickly on the idea that the Big Society is a cover for cuts, which you mentioned in your first question. I think that has also made life very difficult for the Government. David Cameron said just the other day that the Big Society was totally separate from the cuts. There is the deficit reduction over here and the Big Society over here. I do not think that is right, because when you look at what the Big Society is trying to achieve, which is more open and efficient public services and more devolved and accountable local Government that is careful with its money, and more volunteering and social action, all of those things should lead pretty directly towards lower public spending. I think that is one reason why some people have become very distrustful of this idea.
Q165 Paul Flynn: Is it plausible for the Government to say they will give to charities the relatively small amount of £100 million while taking £1.3 billion from them? It is like someone putting a couple of coppers in the collecting tin and stealing your wallet. There is no comparison between the two. How can we possibly say they are separate?
Chair: You have made the point.
Andrew Haldenby: As to charities, I think the trouble the Government have got themselves into is that on public services they should be saying they are in favour of competition and they will look for the best value providers of whatever sector. But they have allowed themselves to give the impression that really what they want are charitable providers in preference to the public and private sectors. That is a wrong position. The trouble is that once the Government are in that position every contract that is lost to a charity looks like a blow against the Big Society, but it should not be; the Big Society should be about the best provision of services, whoever provides them.
Q166 Chair: Mr Brown, do you have anything to add?
Adrian Brown: I do not think it is a cover for cuts and the two are unrelated, but unfortunately they are happening at the same time. It is like organising a garden party and it turns out to be a rainy day. It is unfortunate, but they will have to make the most of it. The cuts make the Big Society agenda a lot more difficult. As to whether they have over-promised and under-delivered, there is some fairness in that. I would say that they vaguely promised, in the sense there are a lot of vague statements about the Big Society, but that makes it very hard to know whether you have delivered, which I think reflects what Matthew said earlier.
Matthew Taylor: I do not think it is a cover for cuts. However, I think it has been injudicious of Ministers to acclaim that if you withdraw the public sector civil society steps into the breach, because there is absolutely no evidence anywhere in the world that public services and civil society are, as it were, a zero sum game.
Q167 Chair: We do accept the reverse, don’t we? If the Government take over too much responsibility, it crowds out that civil society.
Matthew Taylor: I think we can absolutely accept that there are good and bad empowering and bureaucratic ways of providing public services, but as to the idea I have heard Ministers sometimes suggest, that simply withdrawing one means the other will flourish, there is no evidence from around the world that it has ever taken place in that way.
Chair: I am not sure whether I have heard Ministers say it in those terms.
Q168 Robert Halfon: I do not think Ministers have. They may have said things privately to you but I do not think that has been the public message. To go back to what you said about the Big Society, you gave a very academic explanation that the ordinary person in the street would not necessarily understand. Surely, a simple way of explaining it is that it is about building social capital, devolving power to people, that people power is as important as state power, if not more important, and boosting, encouraging and liberating social entrepreneurs from regulation and red tape. That is quite a simple way of explaining it. If you look at a lot of the policies that are coming through I accept there are many inconsistencies, but if you consider education and free schools, the thrust of the NHS about GP commissioning, whether or not you agree with it, and the question of electing police commissioners, all those are about social capital, social entrepreneurship and people power. In that sense I question your view that the Big Society has very little impact on Government policy. Despite the very many inconsistencies, there is a general thrust and a lot of stuff is going on that is very much Big Society.
Matthew Taylor: That is a very interesting question. You suggest I am being too academic. I have to say that the concept of social capital is a profoundly academic concept that has been subject to a library of in-depth analysis. None of these concepts is easy.
Q169 Robert Halfon: But if I knocked on someone’s door and was asked to explain social capital, it just means building and strengthening community.
Matthew Taylor: But I think what you are doing is reifying means over ends. Why do we want social enterprises, mutuals and social capital? Do we want these things as goods in themselves? We do, but that is not what interests me. What interests me is what I would describe as a social emergency, which is-I am sorry if it is academic but I will make sure I make it as non-academic as I can-that unless we have a citizenry that is more engaged, resourceful and inclined to be pro-social we will not advance as a society. I can explain why that is if you want me to, but there is a whole variety of areas. Let’s look for example at social care. We are basically withdrawing support from older, vulnerable people and now providing support only to those with incredibly severe difficulties. I do not think any Government will be able to solve that issue unless they massively increase public spending, and that will not happen under any Government for many years. The answer to this problem has to be that somehow society itself provides that kind of support and steps up to the plate.
Q170 Chair: As indeed it already does in a vast number of cases, because families look after their elderly.
Matthew Taylor: Absolutely, but unfortunately not sufficiently and the level of support varies from place to place. There is a very major problem of isolation among older people. What drives this for me is the notion of how you enable people and create a more capable and responsible citizenry and all the other things, the means. I would judge the Government’s reforms on that criterion.
Q171 Chair: On the enabling?
Matthew Taylor: Is this reform likely to create more responsible and capable citizens? When it comes to schools reform, for example, my view is that the priority is how schools engage parents and communities. How do schools become hubs for creating and learning communities? My criticism of the emphasis on free schools and academies-I am not opposed to them; I worked for a Government that introduced academies-is that I do not see the particular connection between free schools and academies, and what seems to me to be the core, which is how schools can engage much more broadly with their communities and act as community assets and hubs for community engagement. I would say exactly the same about the health service reforms. How are these health service reforms going to encourage people to look after their health better and to be more fully engaged in health and social care? I do not see a connection between the forms and the ultimate objective.
Q172 Robert Halfon: I would like to hear Mr Haldenby in a minute. The answer is very simple: the free schools and academies give parents and individuals the power to set up their own schools, so you are devolving power away from Government to individuals, which is a core component of the Big Society.
Matthew Taylor: If you look at academies, do they feel like institutions that are more accountable and responsive? I am afraid that academies bring contestability to the system. They are a good thing if a school is failing to challenge and change, and also tackle local authorities that have not dealt with under performance, but in my experience academies are no more in touch with the community and parents than any other school; in many cases they are less in touch.
Robert Halfon: We can have this argument.
Q173 Chair: I think you will have to agree to disagree. Move on, please.
Andrew Haldenby: May I come back to your thought that there is a coherent Government policy heading in the direction of decentralisation? I do not agree with that. Of course, there is evidence of decentralisation, but also evidence of great centralisation wherever you want to look. To take schools, let’s imagine that at the end of this Parliament there are 200 free schools and even 2,000 academies that are free from the national curriculum, which is one of their great freedoms. There will be 19,000 state schools in this country, which are subject to the national curriculum. It is a much tougher national curriculum, which, as far as we can see, is more fiercely imposed. There will still be the national pay arrangements in place for the teaching work force. As we learned on Monday, the Government are now open again to national targets in the NHS. There are still national pay agreements in the NHS. The only public-sector workforce that is likely to be opened up or liberalised is the police force with Tom Winsor’s review. It is very difficult to see a convincing case for the Big Society when the picture is very contradictory.
Q174 Robert Halfon: There is an incremental shift away from centralisation although it does not achieve everything you would want ideologically, and it makes it that much easier for the second wave in years to come. The policy is very much about incremental reform, and the incremental shift on some of these things is away from the centre.
Andrew Haldenby: I think that is an interesting idea. It has been said to me, for example, that social enterprises, mutuals, are the thin end of the wedge, which will allow other kinds of providers, particularly private sector ones, to come in later. The other side of it is that there is such a thing as half-way house reform where you introduce a limited micro-reform. It does not turn out to be the thin end of the wedge; opposition amasses around it and it is just squashed. Examples of that would be the assisted places scheme, which was a valuable scheme to open up access to independent schools to a few thousand pupils. That was abolished in 1997. Grant-maintained schools were heavily watered down in 1997. The academies themselves had a lot of their freedoms removed by the previous Government in 2007 and 2008. Therefore, the idea that just a bit of incremental change here is the way to get there in the end is not the history of these reform initiatives.
Q175 Nick de Bois: I have often been on the receiving end of interviews to try to explain or defend the Big Society. I thought I was doing a good job until I listened to all of you. Before I go any further, just to be absolutely secure, recently I had a very nice dinner with Andrew Haldenby and Reform. I would just like that to be on the record. The Big Society has been criticised for being vague, all over the place and almost based on anecdotal evidence to which Mr Taylor himself referred. Does that mean you think it is a failure of presentation more than failure of the idea? To begin with, can I be certain of where you are coming from on that point, Mr Taylor?
Matthew Taylor: For me, it is lack of clarity about the fundamental mechanisms by which we try to diffuse power in society. That is about the mechanisms in Government, but also, as Lord Glasman said to you when he was here, there is a story beyond that about the diffusion of power, for example in relation to markets and corporations. When we look at the question of academies, there is an argument that if you want to diffuse power you need to create alternative power bases to central Government. The Government’s localism agenda is very ambivalent about this because, instead of creating a strong local Government that has the power to stand up to central Government, as happens in many European countries, as an alternative democratic power base, they are largely bypassing local Government. In certain areas, to take the Department for Education, they continue to be deeply hostile to local government. If we go back to the issue of centralisation, a few years ago in the local authority model, the local authority, which is democratically accountable, intervened if a school was failing. When we have 2,000 academies and one fails who will intervene? Whitehall will intervene. This is an interesting idea of decentralisation. We now have 2,000 schools, which, if they fail, will require direct intervention from Whitehall rather than their local authority. What is our notion of devolving power? Is it to atomise power and drive it down to neighbourhoods and have different accountability for police and health, with lots and lots of different forms of accountability, or is it an alternative model where we have other strong institutions that can stand up to central Government, which is the more traditional notion of pluralism, for example? This is one of a variety of errors-contracting, which we have heard about, is another one-where it is just not clear what the mechanism is.
Chair: We have got your message: it is not clear. We are going to come to both contracting and devolution. Do you want to follow up on anything?
Q176 Nick de Bois: I am trying to get a slightly fuller answer to my question. To be quite basic about this, is it a failure of idea or presentation? I will ask this question of another witness, but, to expand on my point, some talk about it taking 10 or 15 years. You are trying to achieve almost a cultural change. I would just like to know whether it is a failure of presentation or idea. Mr Haldenby?
Andrew Haldenby: I have to echo something Matthew said earlier. There has been a lot of failure of presentation so far on a couple of things. One is the cuts to which I referred earlier. The separation has not been convincing.
Chair: We have taken that point.
Andrew Haldenby: But the Government have also claimed credit for a lot of things that have already happened and put a Big Society badge on it. For example, about a dozen Big Society awards have been given to organisations, some of which were set up years ago. It is rather implausible. It is as if the Government are saying that they have created the idea of a Big Society and have found something that has nothing to do with it-
Q177 Chair: Perhaps Mr Davies can answer that point.
Gareth Davies: I think this comes back to the earlier question about whether the Big Society is a year zero concept or building on a sense of tradition, culture and history of volunteering and social action? What the Prime Minister is saying is that this is his vision for domestic policy. It touches on pushing down power in different ways, be it to local Government but also individuals in the form of the personal budget or an individual’s choice of public services and opening it up. I do not think there is a presumption about one sector being better than another; it is about the appropriateness in that individual area. On the specific point about Big Society awards, all we are trying to do here is give more recognition to the good work that is going on already. It is certainly not trying to take credit as an official but to give credit to the good work that is going on in society today.
Nick de Bois: Perhaps I may move on because I am conscious of the time. Let’s talk about opening up the public services and the commissioning aspect.
Chair: Can we come back to that later?
Nick de Bois: I thought that was my next role.
Chair: Perhaps we may go back to enabling.
Q178 Lindsay Roy: The Prime Minister described civil servants as enemies of enterprise. Whether or not you accept that, clearly there is an expectation of some cultural and behavioural change within the Civil Service. What is being done to strengthen that role in terms of empowering and being catalytic within the whole programme? Clearly, if there is no change in the role of the Civil Service we have a real problem.
Gareth Davies: I come back to the point I made earlier about how our role has changed in the last 12 months. If you look back at the differences, we have now abolished the PSA target regime; we no longer have the large numbers or extent of central intervention from Whitehall in frontline public services. For example, DCSF would have had large numbers of teams directly intervening on a day-to-day basis in the activities of schools. There is now a much greater presumption about the competence and abilities of head teachers to run their own schools, for example. The third thing is that we have abolished far more ring-fenced grants and direct central initiatives. That was very much the culture in the last 10 or 20 years.
Q179 Lindsay Roy: You are focusing on roles. I understand devolution. What about the skills and attitudinal change, which I would have thought are fundamental?
Gareth Davies: I wanted to emphasise how the fundamental powers and roles have shifted. You are entirely right that it is a big cultural change. Shifting from that mentality of running targets, interventions and grants is very different from one that is more to do with one-off reforms, commissioning and having strategic management of a wide range of providers in different sectors, and an enabling, corralling and incubating role, which effectively is entrepreneurial. We are at the foothills of that. In previous evidence sessions of this Committee you heard from Gus O’Donnell and Ian Watmore about the needs for a diverse range of skills, one that does not emphasise, if you like, lifelong civil servants but people with greater commercial skills from different backgrounds and a more permeable professional organisation that is smaller but operates much more horizontally, rather than working through the silos of the departments across Whitehall.
Chair: I think this goes to the real crunch of how Whitehall should enable everything that we want.
Q180 Lindsay Roy: So, is there a professional development programme for civil servants?
Gareth Davies: Over the last year a number of things have been started. I am not trying to say this is finished; it is a start.
Q181 Lindsay Roy: Is it systematic?
Gareth Davies: Yes. For example, with Robert Devereux, head of policy development in Whitehall, I have been running a series of sessions with senior civil servants and policy makers about the new way of approaching policy. So, rather than defaulting back to an initiative announced in the Budget, a ring-fenced pot, a target or an NDPB, we are asking first how we can help society solve its own problems and help businesses, communities and families to come together and go with the grain.
Chair: But how much of Whitehall is actually preoccupied with this? How much of Whitehall is just keeping its head down and waiting for this idea to blow over so it can go back to what it was doing before?
Q182 Robert Halfon: Is there a Big Society impact assessment on all Government policies coming through individual departments?
Gareth Davies: I think this comes back to some of the points that Matthew and other people giving evidence here today have made. To what extent is this a stand-alone initiative, or is it something that describes the totality of what the domestic policy reforms are about? We take the coalition document as our guide and the policies are set out there. Our role as civil servants is to implement that coalition document as set out in the business plans. They are monitored by No. 10 and the Treasury, and that is the test about whether these policies are being implemented at the start. There are then further evaluations about their impact on behaviour change, people’s perceptions about power, trust, control and knowledge of their community, but ultimately that feeds into what the Prime Minister has talked about on a number of occasions: the idea of well-being, in the sense that we may be richer as a country.
Q183 Chair: We are getting back to the conceptual things; we need to talk about who is doing what. When a civil servant comes into the office at nine o’clock in the morning, what will he do differently that will enable the Big Society?
Andrew Haldenby: On "the enemies of enterprise", I think the Prime Minister can only have meant that, after a period of time in power, he had started a number of things in train that just were not happening.
Paul Flynn: A big number.
Andrew Haldenby: He felt that the Civil Service or Whitehall machine, whatever you want to call it, was not giving him the support. I think the question then is: what have the Government done to make the Whitehall machine more directly accountable to Ministers? I think this Committee has discussed before the initiative, for example, to make departmental boards accountable to secretaries of state and, in the last resort, to allow permanent secretaries to be able to be moved by those boards if Ministers felt they were not getting enough support. That would be an example of the kind of radical reform that would give Ministers the chance to shift the enemies of enterprise, but it would seem to me that that reform has not come to any great fruition so far.
Q184 Robert Halfon: Should there be a Big Society impact assessment on all domestic Government policies coming through Whitehall?
Matthew Taylor: What would you measure?
Q185 Robert Halfon: You have set the definitions of the Big Society.
Matthew Taylor: The Government have abolished two or three of the obvious things. They have abolished two or three measures that would be the obvious thing you would measure if you were trying to work out whether there was a Big Society growing. They have done that for reasons of spending cuts, which is fine, but the kind of granular information about neighbourhoods, for example, that the Government used to collect is no longer being collected. So, I am not sure how you would conduct such an impact assessment either in terms of concept-what it is we are measuring here-or in terms of the actual metrics, which are no longer there.
Q186 Chair: I want to wrap this up. Mr Taylor, you have noted that this means a much changed task for civil servants. We are all agreed that potentially there is a vast untapped resource out there of good will and energy, which the state on its own tends to ignore. How does the Whitehall machine engage this in order to deliver what we all want to see, which is a more motivated citizenry?
Matthew Taylor: I think it means that departments have to have a very clear account of what the Big Society means to them. In a way they do, but the problem is that these accounts do not marry with each other. To take an example, in the police reforms the account seems to be, "We need to challenge professionals," whereas in the health service the account seems to be, "We need to give all the power to professionals." In the schools system it is, "Let’s give the power to the parents," but actually it will probably be giving power to head teachers. I think that civil servants are at a loss. They know that the old days have gone, and in some ways they welcome that; they understand the madness of too many targets and interventions, but what they do not understand is the driving logic of what they are trying to do now. They understand what the Minister wants. Also, departments at the moment and for the last year have been driven much more by the Treasury than No. 10. The Treasury does not even bother to use the words "Big Society"; it is utterly dismissive of the idea.
Q187 Chair: Is not the problem that people have become very disillusioned with the long screwdriver management by the Treasury, understandably, but will an attempt to create a different blueprint for all public services-or a pan-governmental business plan-so there is a uniform philosophical approach really work, Mr Haldenby?
Andrew Haldenby: Hold on. You are giving the impression that you want to replace one centralised form of Government with another, but that is not the point. Surely, it is possible to have a coherent view of the reform of public services, for example, that is consistent in its direction. I think the Government’s argument has been, as Mr Halfon said, that there is a consistent direction across the piece, but actually there are contradictions. Matthew mentioned a couple of those. I said earlier that I thought the pullback on the NHS reforms had put a big question mark over the whole thing.
Q188 Chair: Is not a fundamental problem with the Big Society that it means different things in different Government departments and policies, which is inevitable, and it is not about a top-down approach? You cannot have a business plan for something that ultimately is not meant to be implemented by Whitehall?
Andrew Haldenby: I do not agree with that.
Q189 Chair: It does need a business plan?
Andrew Haldenby: It needs direction and leadership; it needs a set of policies that are consistent and mutually supportive. If a business plan means a sense of when those policies will be implemented, what they are and when they are coming of course that is possible. The Government have already introduced departmental plans that lay out those milestones. The problem is that they are not consistent. That is why I think the whole thing does not hang together.
Matthew Taylor: Perhaps I may make this very concrete. There is an example of a public service that has gone from one that was simply delivered to one that is now coproduced, but people never recognise which one it is: refuse collection. 20 or 30 years ago we would just stick our rubbish in the bin and the council would deal with it. Now more and more people sort their rubbish into different piles. We probably spend more time managing our own refuse than the council. People are happy with that, basically; they see the reason for it and do it. Young people in particular nag their parents to make sure they recycle. For me, the Big Society should be about how it is that in other public services we reconceptualise them, not as services where we deliver to people but where the value is jointly created by the public sector and citizens individually and collectively. That seems to me to be at the very heart of this concept, but I do not see that notion being applied across Whitehall. I see some departments that may be slightly interested in that but for other departments there does not seem to be an interest in it at all. For example, it does not seem to me that the Department for Education is in the slightest bit interested in parental engagement apart from a handful of free schools, which, as Andrew said, will be at the very margins of the system. Anyway, even with the creation of the free schools, it is not clear that parental involvement continues beyond that. If a school is created, it is then handed over to the head teacher.
Q190 Chair: I think we are on to the nub of something. Before we go on to commissioning, are there any other comments on this particular matter? Mr Brown, you have not said very much.
Adrian Brown: The idea that the Big Society does not need a plan, which was in the air at the beginning of the Big Society last year, and it is just organic and evolutionary-that in fact a plan is counter to the essence of the Big Society-is a mistake. Not to have an idea where you are going and how you will get there with anything will lead to disappointment.
Q191 Chair: Is this what we expect the White Paper on the future of public services to be?
Adrian Brown: I think we all look forward to reading the White Paper when it comes out.
Matthew Taylor: With baited breath.
Adrian Brown: Maybe that will provide a more coherent vision across the piece as to what the Big Society implies. But I think the important point is that there is an enormous diversity of public services, from the management of something like Jobcentre Plus, which is a giant organisation delivering services out there in communities, to something that is a lot more about citizens engaging directly, and perhaps handing over powers to non-state actors. It is a mistake to suggest that everything should be following the same set of rules and there is a simple blueprint that all policymakers across Whitehall can follow. But I do not think anyone believes that that is the case. Where people in Whitehall are struggling, if you went down the corridor and asked the average policy maker, is that they are not quite sure how to interpret that high-level vision that they hear in the speeches into the realities that they are dealing with as policy makers. If they are looking at schools or whatever, what should they do?
Q192 Paul Flynn: This is déjà vu about the last Government. We talked about leaving one sense of madness. We are picking up another range of madness, launching something and a year later deciding to get a plan for it. It sounds awfully like the Third Way. Does anyone believe that that was a great success? Is the Big Society to be buried, forgotten and friendless?
Matthew Taylor: The Third Way was very different from the Big Society.
Q193 Paul Flynn: Was it?
Chair: We do not want to have a debate about the Third Way.
Matthew Taylor: I can deal with it in one sentence. I did know that it was coming up and so I have prepared. The Third Way was an attempt to redefine social democracy and say that it had to respond to major changes in the world, like globalisation, decline of deference and individualism. Therefore, Anthony Giddens and other people believed that fundamentally it was about rethinking social democracy for a modern age. Therefore, it was a very political project. It seems to me that the Big Society is not a way of redefining politics, although some people in the Conservative Party would argue about this; it is trying to get to the heart of a major social problem. I think it is right in its diagnosis. The problem is that its prescription is, as economists would say, not good enough to be wrong.
Q194 Nick de Bois: Turning to commissioning, if we are to open up public services to social enterprises, charities and private companies-I hope-the question must be: is Whitehall ready and skilled enough to be able to do this? There is thinking about whether the Whitehall commissioners are currently prepared and have been empowered to commission services from smaller organisations and charities, which they have not really been dealing with. That is a big change. I would be interested in your views, Mr Davies.
Gareth Davies: I make a couple of points. Certainly, in my time in Whitehall over the last 10 years there has been increased professionalisation of the procurement and commercial functions for commissioning. There has been a big improvement, certainly in professional recognition. If you think about improving the skill sets of the Civil Service, it is important to get the incentives right. Certainly, the quality of people who are being brought in now is a step ahead of where we were a decade ago. That is a start. There certainly needs to be greater awareness of the diverse range of providers on whom you can call. A lot of the EU rules on procurement and the use of framework contracts, PQQs and the like do tend to bias you towards the larger players. This is not a question of preferring one sector over another but ensuring there is a proper level playing field and competitive neutrality. You can look at what DWP has done through implementation of what they call the Merlin standards, which is about how subcontractors are dealt with as part of the work programme, and similarly the Compact, which is about how Government generally relate to the third sector. These are the ways in which we can try to improve awareness and understanding.
Q195 Nick de Bois: To interrupt you on that point, I want to be clear I understand it. Are you saying that what we may end up with are social enterprises or small private companies being second or third tier contractors, and is that necessarily the right thing?
Gareth Davies: If we look at the example of the work programme of my colleagues in DWP, two of the prime contractors are from the VCSE, the voluntary sector. However, 300 organisations are subcontractors. Depending on the different roles and the strength of the balance sheets needed to manage payment-by-results contracts, that is probably appropriate. The key is to make sure that relationships work appropriately. Certainly, in our Green Paper on modernising commissioning we have some feedback on ensuring that the relationships are right, and the ways those are managed are very important.
It is a new set of skills. No one would say-certainly Gus O’Donnell would not-that the skills are there in Whitehall yet. However, there is some very interesting work going on. If we talk about the work I have seen in Blackburn and what Turning Point is doing in relation to local integrated commissioning, that is about community-level commissioning. Rather than it being set up by central Government or even local Government, it is small neighbourhoods saying what services they want. This goes back to Matthew’s point about coproduction. There is a range of initiatives going on at the moment. Have these matured? No, but it is certainly a start.
Matthew Taylor: May I just say why I think this is difficult? I have spoken to people at No. 10 who recognise this is a very difficult issue. They are looking for new forms of commissioning and to find ways to make it easier for third sector organisations to win out. They are also desperately keen to try to get the whole payment-by-results systems to work, but it turns out this is very, very difficult. Even the one social impact bond that is being created is proving to be incredibly difficult to get off the ground. There is a real appetite in No. 10, but the solutions are quite a long way away.
I give you an example in one sentence of why it is difficult. When we in No. 10 opened up the health service to contestability we knew we had to create surplus capacity, so in a sense we had to waste money. It was quite explicit that we had to create surplus capacity in order to bring contestability into the system. If you want to promote the third sector probably you have to do something similar. The easy way to do it is to say, "We will over-procure in order to give these players, who may be suboptimal, a way in so they can develop and grow." But there is no extra money for suboptimality. When you look at the work programme, it is pretty clear that in the end the ones that won the contracts were those that discounted. It was all done on discounting; that was what drove it. Therefore, if you want the third sector to win contracts you have to do something at a system level. Merlin and these other contracts are fine, but either you have to change the rules, which is hard for a variety of reasons, or in some way you have to capture what the third sector brings within the contract. Somehow you have to specify in the contract so that what the third sector has gives it an advantage. Gareth will know that these were very hard to do.
Q196 Nick de Bois: To dig a little deeper, if I was running a charity or a social enterprise with a group of volunteers my chances of winning a bid would be pretty slim because my balance sheet would be rubbish and I would probably have no working capital. If it is payments by results it will come rather late in the day. Do you agree with that view, Mr Brown? I will come back to you, Mr Davies. Are you anticipating that problem? Have you got any plans to say anything about that?
Adrian Brown: I think that is a struggle for small organisations, whether or not they are social enterprises. The Big Society bank, which I am sure Gareth will talk about, is designed to start addressing that particular problem.
Q197 Nick de Bois: On commercial terms we anticipate, don’t we?
Adrian Brown: On commercial terms, but with an emphasis on delivering to organisations that perhaps would not find that financing from regular sources. To go back to your question, you referred to Whitehall commissioners. Within the context of this conversation, obviously there are lots of places where commissioning or commissioning-like activity is happening not in Whitehall, and presumably the Big Society would encourage this. It is happening at a local level, or individuals are commissioning their own services. There is a lot of interesting potential in those kinds of new mechanisms for commissioning, which are more likely to mean the kinds of organisations that you are talking about being involved in public service delivery.
Gareth Davies: I make three quick points. First, it is important to get the specification right at the start. Bad procurement and commissioning is when you look just for the cheapest option. Some of the work we are now doing across Whitehall is to ensure we can improve the quality of commissioning and get the service specification right. It is not just about the individual service but the wider benefits it brings. Secondly, there will be different ways of contracting with different organisations. Some smaller organisations will be subcontracting. The key is to make sure those rules are right and the procurement is effective. If you look at what Cruise are doing in North West Wales, that is quite small scale in terms of that branch but they will then partner with others who can have the balance sheet risk.
Thirdly, in terms of trying to broaden access to social finance some of the ideas around social impact bonds are incredibly innovative, but there is a real potential to change the way in which smaller charities can access finance. The Big Society bank will play a critical role in this. There will be different ways in which it will provide capital. Sometimes it will be long-term working capital, equity investments and different types of debt structures. It would be for Ronnie Cohen to work his way through that in terms of the details. We will be coming forward with that over the coming months. But that will give opportunities for different finance that may not be available from the more standard commercial lenders.
Q198 Nick de Bois: Is there any evidence to suggest that it is not working at the moment?
Gareth Davies: It is a mixed picture. If you look at some of the success, for example the DWP work programme, 300 voluntary groups have won parts of subcontracting work. We are looking at getting about £600 million into the sector through those contracts that were competitively tendered. But in our feedback from the commissioning Green Paper there is some concern about how those roles work out in practice to make sure those relationships operate. It is certainly something about which I am concerned. I am working with colleagues in commissioning and procurement in Cabinet Office to think through how this works in practice. There was an event on 11 February where the Prime Minister and Minister for the Cabinet Office went through some of the reforms to help expand commissioning opportunities for those small businesses and the voluntary sector and the reform of procurement rules. We are looking to abolish the PQQ, pre-qualification phase, for some of the smallest contracts, frankly to take some of the bureaucracy out of it, and look at ways in which we can parcel up those contracts.
Q199 Nick de Bois: I am all for taking bureaucracy out of it. Mr Haldenby, would it worry you if social enterprises were given a competitive advantage over, say, private sector companies in view of the fact that financially they might be lacking in assets but might have some intangible assets that were considered to be of greater value?
Andrew Haldenby: I think the Government have to decide on the purpose of commissioning. Is it to get the best services delivered for the best value or to build a certain network of suppliers in a way that is very neatly specified from the centre?
Q200 Chair: Can you separate those two?
Andrew Haldenby: Yes. Not so long ago there was the leak of a memo of a meeting between Francis Maude and the CBI. Francis Maude said that, although the Government spoke about open competition in public services, in practice they were not in favour of outsourcing services to the traditional big outsourcing companies; they wanted new ideas-mutuals, social enterprises and so on.
Q201 Chair: That is because the present delivery model is very blunt and quite difficult. We have seen this in other areas where very large contracting organisations form an oligopoly that does not provide enough competition or innovation.
Andrew Haldenby: But in some cases those organisations deliver outstanding performance. Last year the Guardian’s public servant of the year was the governor of Doncaster prison, which happens to be run by Serco. I have no brief for Serco, but that is just a fact. It is true that all markets could be competitive, but I think the outsourcing market is competitive. I would challenge the idea that it is completely oligopolistic.
Q202 Chair: Mr de Bois, I am sorry to interrupt your line of questions. Referring to the whole question of profit and not for profit, we know that polling shows that not for profit is nice and if people make profit out of things they are not nice, but is it a mistake to get into a rather poll-driven delivery model and be over-obsessed with not-for-profit organisations? I see Mr Taylor nodding, which is very encouraging.
Matthew Taylor: Yes, because I think it goes back to what I have been trying to say throughout, which is: what is the objective you are trying to achieve here? If, as I have been asserting throughout, the objective is about encouraging people to be more responsible and capable, there is no intrinsic reason why the third sector is better at that than the private sector or public sector, or that local Government is better than central Government. It depends upon the model of delivery and your objectives.
I am quite sceptical about the idea that ownership in itself matters. Would you rather your car was repaired by four blokes, one of whom owns the garage and the other three work for him but they like cars, or by a mutual of four people none of whom is interested in cars and will rip you off? Would you say, "It does not matter if my car does not work because at least it was done by a mutual"? What matters is the way you specify what you are trying to achieve and the delivery mechanism.
Of course, because third sector organisations are not ultimately driven by profit they have greater scope for engagement and a more open-ended relationship with people, so there are reasons to believe but it needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. As we saw from building societies a few years ago, the fact that you have a particular structure does not necessarily mean anything about the way power is distributed in that organisation.
Andrew Haldenby: On the mutuals and social enterprises side, we should not let this
Government get away with the idea that this is a new idea that will potentially be transformative. We have been here before. In the first term of the previous Government there was a whole host of discussion about new organisational forms and community interest companies. Indeed, units were set up in the Cabinet Office to advance this idea. Transformation did not happen. I just want to give a sense of the history and suggest that specifying those particular delivery models does seem to be a genuinely odd option.
Chair: We will come to more mutuals in a minute.
Q203 Robert Halfon: Going back to contracting charities regarding the Big Society, how do you stop the whole thing being hijacked by the big ones, like the Tesco charities, which are inevitably much better at lobbying for funds from the Big Society bank? A little charity in my constituency will have little idea about approaching the Big Society bank. Is not one possible great flaw in all this that it will be just the big charities that benefit from the Big Society largesse?
Adrian Brown: My understanding is that the Big Society bank will not lend directly to charities but to intermediaries who will then work with charities. My understanding of what the Big Society bank is trying to achieve is that it will have a whole range of intermediaries who can work with larger charities but also smaller ones.
Chair: We all know that contracting with central Government, or indeed local Government, is notorious.
Q204 Robert Halfon: Why can it not lend directly? Why do there need to be intermediaries? If a little charity in my constituency comes to the Big Society bank, why can it not get access to funds?
Adrian Brown: The Big Society bank is not being constituted as a direct lender in that way. That is how it is being set up. Gareth will know more about that.
Robert Halfon: In essence, it means that it will still be decided by the great and the good.
Q205 Chair: We are taking evidence next week on the Big Society bank, so perhaps we can leave that. On the question of contracting, we all know that the public sector tends to migrate towards larger providers. How do we get through to the smaller providers, which tend to be the mutuals?
Adrian Brown: I think you have to ask: why does the public sector do that?
Chair: Because it does not have the capacity to deal with it.
Adrian Brown: Because it is a lot easier to deal with fewer larger contracts with people with a track record of doing what you have asked them to do and can provide the data you need to see that they have done it. In future what one would hope according to the Big Society logic is that commissioners change their mindsets and-to go back to my definition of deployment of resources efficiently, effectively and easily-do not think how they can get the resources out and commission services that will achieve what they want to achieve but instead think how they can tap into a much wider range of resources, which would force them, if they were thinking in that broader sense, to start approaching maybe smaller charities and organisations that they would not necessarily turn to just because it was a big, easy contract for them to write.
Q206 Chair: You need different people with different skills, don’t you?
Adrian Brown: I would have thought so.
Andrew Haldenby: If I may come back to the idea of scale, some problems in public services are big. Yesterday we had a conference of international health reformers. Some of the people there were from Valencia in Spain. What they have done in that region is divide up their health regions into 25 big sections each having hundreds of thousands of people.
Q207 Kelvin Hopkins : Like PCTs?
Andrew Haldenby: Like PCTs, but they ask private-sector organisations to run them, and they do that at a cost that is at least 25% less than the public-sector operators, and they have just as good, if not better, quality metrics. It is a huge success and they are very proud of it. But the point is that one organisation is responsible for the health service. Because of that they have been able to bring together primary and secondary care. I will not go on about it, but it is a perfect model of what this Government want to do.
Q208 Lindsay Roy: We seem to be preoccupied with profit-making companies and financial profit. As far as I am concerned profit is endemic in all of this and it is about dividends, benefits and improvements. Whether it is a private enterprise company, a mutual or a local authority, it is bringing the biggest dividends you can to the people who are engaging.
Andrew Haldenby: Perhaps the profit-making organisations have scale and they will be able to make progress quite quickly on this agenda.
Q209 Lindsay Roy: All I am saying is: let’s not get it out of perspective.
Andrew Haldenby: Perhaps, but let’s not forget the benefits of speed of action. This talk of other ideas creates uncertainty and prevents investors wanting to come in to finance all of this. There is no sign of a wave of investment in public services of a new kind, which is what the Government were hoping for, and this talk of different models is hindering that.
Q210 Alun Cairns: Mr Davies, obviously the Government are keen to see more public-sector mutuals and social enterprises, but do you think that the Civil Service and other public-sector agency staff are geared up to allow and facilitate that to happen?
Gareth Davies: There is a range of action on mutuals. First, there are the 21 pathfinder areas and a range of quite small examples where we are partnering organisations with what were public-sector bodies but have been spun out to create some kind of social enterprise structure. If you look in Cambridge, Tribal are working with the families and children at risk to create an organisation focused on problem families. Interestingly, the Cabinet Office has recently announced reforms of the Civil Service pension administration. We are now looking to create a mutual joint venture as a formal structure and spin out the Civil Service administration, bring in a private-sector partner and create a mutual environment. There is a lot of interest there. More generally, we are already seeing a lot of interest from civil servants across Whitehall to create their own mutuals. What they see is the opportunity to have more control and power over the services they provide and to sell their services to other bits of the sector.
Q211 Alun Cairns: I recognise that, but I want to highlight a situation where an innovative, entrepreneurial civil servant, or group of civil servants, thinks service can be delivered in a better way but it is not in the interests of senior management within the Civil Service to allow that to happen because their staff count would drop and, I would expect, their terms and conditions would change as a result.
Gareth Davies: What is important, as ever with these reforms, is to get the incentives right. One thing we are looking to bring in in the early autumn is something we call the right to provide, where civil servants have the right to put in a request to spin out as a mutual or social enterprise, which then needs to be considered by Ministers. They will have power to ask that, and that needs to be considered transparently. The full details are being worked through, but that is the way in which it will operate, just as in health you already have a right to request to spin out to a social enterprise. We have seen a lot of that in terms of social work practices. The obvious example is Central Surrey Health. They have already spun out and created a very viable organisation.
Q212 Alun Cairns : The Localism Bill has a community right to challenge. Any group, or even individuals within the local authority, can challenge the local authority to deliver a particular service. Do you think civil servants should be given the same right within national agencies or within the Civil Service in general?
Gareth Davies: Yes, and that will be the right to provide. The right to challenge will be for third sector bodies, communities and local authorities; the right to provide will be for civil servants to spin out their own services.
Q213 Alun Cairns : I am still not clear from your answer about the response from the senior management within the Civil Service, who really do not want to see it or have not bought into the process, bearing in mind that could well be their line management. I am thinking of a situation with which I have been quite closely involved, where an innovative civil servant came up with an idea and was almost put on disciplinary action because he dared to share that idea with me rather than his senior management. As soon as senior management saw it, they sat on it.
Gareth Davies: I would be worrying if that was happening. As ever, in any large organisation there will be mixed practice. Certainly, in the sessions that I have been running with senior civil servants there is a lot of interest. The critical way in which the right to provide will operate is through that ministerial check. The fact is that it will be considered by Ministers will allow civil servants to bypass people who might be more resistant to ideas.
Q214 Alun Cairns : Mr Brown, you talked about the risks of romanticising mutuals. Do you want to share your thoughts on that?
Adrian Brown: I think you are referring to a blog I wrote at the Institute for Government. There is a danger with the mutuals agenda that, because they sound very enticing, with people running their own services and public servants being able to carve out their own bit and have the freedoms and vision to go off and do it by themselves, that very positive view-no doubt all those benefits are real-masks the significant organisational and managerial challenges of making that happen. That is why I think the Cabinet Office is putting effort into the pathfinders.
As soon as you look at any particular area of public service and say, "Can we make a mutual out of this?" and think about the practicalities of doing that, then you can imagine the legal implications of taking a piece of an organisation and pulling out the staff contracts; you have to think about pensions, etc. When this organisation is outside of the public service, it has to fend for itself; it will have to have a business plan and a long-term vision about how it will create value, and from where it will get its income. It will have to manage its own IT and back office functions in ways that probably it did not have to think about before. All of that might be a price worth paying, but we should not underestimate the challenges of all those things when thinking about whether or not to go for mutuals. I think I said in that blog that the tone of the debate tended to focus far too much on mutuals as a wonderful, warm, glowing future place where we could all head, and not very much on the quite dull managerial challenges of making that happen.
Q215 Alun Cairns : Are there inherent risks in mutuals because of their lack of access to capital, for example?
Adrian Brown: I think that is a risk, but I would say a greater risk is that, even if a mutual can carve itself out and have access to capital in order to do what it wants to do, it is suddenly opening itself up to competition. Some of the bigger organisations, who are swimming around in whatever space they happen to be mutualising themselves into, will have a direct and immediate interest in the new kid on the block and whether business is being taken away from them. I would worry that the people who take these mutuals out suddenly find themselves in a highly competitive situation and are up against the big boys, and find that any bit of value that is worth having will be immediately taken away from them, or they will find themselves in a highly competitive position. That will be very challenging. As you think about mutualisation, how you manage the transitional period during which you go from the safe, protected waters as part of the state to a future where you are out there fending for yourself is extremely important.
Q216 Alun Cairns : So, how should policy evolve to best manage that position?
Adrian Brown: I think that transition has to be thought through a lot more because it will take time. As many people have already said, a lot of the elements of the Big Society are such fundamental changes to the way the state is organising itself and the way the culture of the people who work in the state develops that they do not happen over night; they will not happen in one or two years. As Matthew said, it is probably a 10- or 20-year vision. Therefore, I think that on the mutuals agenda we need to be honest that certainly it is great to have a vision where mutuals are a core part of our public service delivery, but is that in the next six months? I do not think so. It will have to be five or 10 years, and you will have to take your time to manage this transition; otherwise, you risk destroying everything in an instant because it will all be competed away.
Q217 Alun Cairns : Mr Taylor, do you have anything to add to that?
Matthew Taylor: I think one has to distinguish between the goal of allowing parts of the public sector to break away from being part of a huge bureaucracy, and therefore to have more freedom to focus on a particular set of functions and to be more entrepreneurial and develop different ways of working and collaborating, and the question of governance. How should those things be governed? At the risk of being repetitive, it takes you back to what you are trying to achieve here. The idea of mutualism is that it is a good idea that people who work in an organisation have a stake in it, whether it is a financial or governmental one. That is fine. It is an important idea. It works in certain circumstances, but there are also downsides in relation to flexibility, for example, and possibly in relation to spontaneity. These organisations may want to spend a lot of time talking about what they want to do rather than necessarily acting.
I would concur with what Adrian said. On the one hand, one needs to be pragmatic. I am in favour of greater plurality, so it is good for any system to have different ways of doing things. Let’s have more mutuals, private sector, public sector and local authorities; let’s have lots of different ways of doing things. I am in favour of that, but in terms of the specifics let’s be pragmatic and not underestimate the dangers; in particular, as Adrian implied, remember that when we create a mutual how will we ensure that it will stay in that position in three or five years? How do we know that what we do not have is someone who just comes in to asset strip it? We have seen what happened to Southern Cross, which is a different kind of example. If you are a medium-size organisation that has a good contract you are a sitting duck for somebody to come along and take you over. How do we vest these organisations with a long-term commitment to public good?
Q218 Kelvin Hopkins : Referring to the question of profit-making companies in what were public services, Mr Brown and Mr Haldenby seemed to dismiss the realities that mutuals can do very much and it will actually be profit-driven private companies. What is the role of private companies in future for delivering our public services?
Adrian Brown: Of course, today private companies are responsible for delivering a lot of public services, so again it is not a case that the Big Society suddenly leads to an instant transformation in the role of the private sector in the delivery of public services. That is the reality and that has developed over quite a few years. It is important to acknowledge that private companies do have a role in this agenda because often the talk of Big Society has been very much to emphasise charities and mutuals and perhaps to downplay the role that the private sector can play. But, as Matthew just said, the plurality of provision is one of the most important parts of this, so the private sector undoubtedly has a role to play in that mixed market.
As we have just been talking about, the challenge will be: how do you balance the different types of incentives that these different organisations have if they are out there competing, directly or indirectly, for the same space? How do you balance the different capacity of these organisations to access capital and respond to Government tenders, which we have already talked about, because one would imagine that the larger private-sector organisations would be better placed to do a lot of those things compared with the smaller nonprivate organisations.
Q219 Kelvin Hopkins : So, we go through a temporary period of Maoist chaos and eventually it all falls into the pockets of the global corporations who can really do the job and make a lot of profit?
Adrian Brown: Only if the commissioners of public services are completely blind to their responsibility not just on a moment-by-moment basis to say, "Have I procured the best value service today?" But I think commissioners need to think about the long-term health of the systems for which they are responsible. It sounds terribly technocratic but it is the simplest way I can think of to describe it. They should feel that they have responsibility to manage those kinds of tensions in the long run.
Q220 Kelvin Hopkins : Earlier Matthew Taylor talked about the importance of having competition, profit, contestability and a variety of providers in the health service. Elswehere in the world, the health service that is actually private and competitive is in America. They spend twice the proportion of their GDP on health than we do and get a less good service with millions without any proper healthcare. Certainly, at one time the most efficient health service, despite criticisms in the world, was the National Health Service. In terms of equity it was incomparable with America.
Matthew Taylor: But a lot of our health and social care is provided through the private sector. GPs are private contractors. Our care sector has long been largely dominated by the private sector. Certain areas of healthcare with very vulnerable patients, people with severe mental illness, have also been provided by the independent sector, for example quite a lot of secure accommodation.
Q221 Kelvin Hopkins : You state the case, but I was coming on to that in my next example.
Matthew Taylor: I am just saying that the system you are praising is already a mixed market, so it obviously not a principled issue here.
Q222 Kelvin Hopkins : But you are stating what exists. What we want is evidence that one is better than another. Under the Blair Government we had measures that effectively forced local authorities to close down care homes and shift everything into the private sector, like Southern Cross. It happened in my constituency. First-class care homes, which were loved by the people who lived there, by the staff who worked there and by the communities, were forcibly closed down and now they are all in the hands of companies like Southern Cross. Vast profits have been made out of that and put into rich people’s pockets. Is that the direction in which we are going?
Andrew Haldenby: There are lots of things to say, but we are going in the direction of more efficient public services. For obvious reasons, that is clearly associated with the financial and fiscal environment. On care homes in particular, I think it is important not to single out Southern Cross and deduce from that that the difficulties of that company mean that the entire private social care-
Q223 Kelvin Hopkins : It is reported today in the press that other companies are in similar difficulties.
Andrew Haldenby: Of course they are, but, hold on, let’s have a look at the industry. The industry of residential social care is in some difficulties, in the case of Southern Cross because bad business decisions were made, but, most importantly, because local authorities and people themselves would now much prefer to be cared for in their own homes, not residential care homes, so demand for those places is falling and that business model is changing.
Q224 Kelvin Hopkins : We all accept that people want to stay in their own homes but some need residential care, which must be provided. Let’s go to another example. The health service is being pushed into a much more-not mutual-but company-like arrangement with foundation hospitals. They were forced through by the last Government. I voted against them. We finished up with Mid-Staffordshire Hospital, where 400 people died as a result of setting up a foundation hospital driven by commercial concerns.
Andrew Haldenby: One of the key conclusions of the inspection report on MidStaffordshire was that managers had taken their eye off the ball because they had been preoccupied with Government targets, not their responsibilities to their local populations in being a foundation trust. One should not generalise from individual cases. There are many examples of successful private-sector delivery of healthcare.
Q225 Chair: Indeed, foundation trusts are public sector organisations.
Andrew Haldenby: Yes, they are. But, to take the point about commercial, business-minded organisations, there are many, many examples of successful private-sector organisations in this country and overseas.
Q226 Chair: Would that all our public hospitals had the same infection rates as private-sector hospitals, but that is another matter. Perhaps I may press Mr Davies on the role of private companies and the leaked memo about the meeting between the Minister and the CBI. Will there be a bias against big contractors and big private companies?
Gareth Davies: What is important is to maintain a diversity of suppliers. I think that any good commissioning model will ensure that what you do not do is lock yourself into a single provider. That is where trouble lies. The key is to ensure a diverse range, be they profit making, social enterprises or the public sector. It is about neutrality between models.
Q227 Chair: So, it was a message about neutrality and not about bias?
Gareth Davies: Neutrality is a level playing field. The key question is to make sure you commission services at the right level.
Q228 Chair: I think we have that on the record; it is very useful. Thank you very much.
Matthew Taylor: I know this will be a shocking thought for all of you, but if it was incredibly difficult to find ways of giving contracts to third sector organisations and small organisations and actually they were all going to big organisations, what you might do is have a meeting and let a memo be leaked that said you were trying to do something very different. I see the political art being played here. People are reassured by the memo but the reality is that No. 10 and the Cabinet Office have not found a way of making this a level playing field.
Q229 Chair: Policy wonks are meant to be idealistic; politicians are meant to be cynical. We have role reversal here. Perhaps we can move to accountability. How does accountability work when you are diffusing decision making through the system in the way that is being proposed here? Who will be accountable for what? How do Ministers finish up being accountable for the way public money is spent?
Andrew Haldenby: It is a big question, but I think that from the Government’s point of view that is one thing the open public services White Paper, at least on the public services side, is supposed to answer. As Matthew said earlier, different kinds of accountabilities are being talked about throughout the public services, and it is a bit hard to know what the Government’s answer is to that yet.
Q230 Chair: But you gave the Government a D on your score card on the issue of accountability? Can you explain that?
Andrew Haldenby: In my view, in much of the public services, as we have talked about, they should be accountable to the people who use them in various different ways. In the case of the police, it is the local electorates; in the case of schools, it is parents.
Q231 Chair: So, Ministers should be able to tell Parliament, "No, that service is not accountable to me but to its users"?
Andrew Haldenby: Yes. In Valencia, which I mentioned earlier, the Government set the contract to the private company to deliver not all but most healthcare for their citizens. They set the rate, which, from memory, is €600 per year per citizen, and define what is to be delivered for that money. It is the private company then that is accountable for the delivery.
Adrian Brown: I think this is an area that requires a lot more thought by the Government. Without really robust alternative sources of accountability that do not come through the Whitehall mechanism it is very difficult for a Minister to stand up at the Dispatch Box and say-
Q232 Chair: Our recommendation will not say that the Government ought to think about this. What should our recommendation be?
Adrian Brown: There are five things that you need to get right if you are to think of accountability. What are you accountable for? Are you accountable for financial propriety or performance of the public service? Different people could be held accountable for different aspects of accountability. We seem to be clear on that. The problem we have at the moment is that, because the vast majority of money flows from the top down, that is where the accountability tends to lie. There is an argument to suggest that, while that remains the case, it is extremely difficult to push real accountability away from the Treasury and the tax-raising powers at the centre.
Second, who are the people to be held to account for these things? Third, who is holding them to account? Is it the public? Is it people acting on their behalf or locally elected politicians or local public servants? Fourth, how will that mechanism of accountability operate? There are all sorts of different ways that it could work. And fifth, crucially, what consequences flow from accountability? If you do not have consequences accountability is meaningless. On all of those questions across the whole of the public service reform agenda there are a lot of blank spaces at the moment.
Q233 Chair: So, how would a Minister go about doing this? For each of the public services under his control would he have an accountability memo, say, which would be put out in a statement to Parliament, saying this is what is being held accountable and by whom and how, so Parliament is aware? Is that a method we could use without destroying the principle of ministerial accountability?
Adrian Brown: Ministers certainly need to be clear what they are and are not being held to account for and then have good answers to those other questions. The problem is that because good answers to those other questions are often lacking-to be honest, Ministers do not like standing at the Dispatch Box and being accused of things over which they do not feel they have control-the natural inclination inevitably as Governments mature in office is to pull accountability back up. It takes real strength from the Government to-
Q234 Paul Flynn: A mature Government that is full of blanks and holes is a guarantee of chaos.
Adrian Brown: It will take time to fill in these blanks and for accountability mechanisms themselves to mature. You cannot say over night that now that you have an elected police commissioner, a mayor or voice in a market, that is how it will work and you should feel happy that is the case.
Q235 Paul Flynn: I have been in public office for 49 years and have lived through reorganisation after reorganisation. I cannot think of one of them by any Government that paid any return for the losses, chaos and disorganisation of the change itself. Would it not be a good thing if perhaps we stepped away from the ferment of reorganisation? I saw a gleam in the eye of Mr Haldenby when he talked about Valencia, where they are to split everything up into 25 bits. I guarantee that within a decade or two someone will say, "No, no; we should join everything together for economies of scale." This is a constant ferment. It is great for you guys, but would it not be better if you all went into monasteries for about a decade or two and let the Government run the system as it is?
Andrew Haldenby: I think the Government do want to leap into this ferment particularly because of the position of the public finances, and it is absolutely right that they have to save money.
Q236 Chair: Mr Davies, what do you have to say about this? As we are trying to implement the Big Society across Whitehall, how will accountability work?
Gareth Davies: I think it will differ from industry to service and will be based on the users. I think that in some areas there will be individual accountability.
Q237 Chair: What about using this IFG matrix?
Gareth Davies: I think there is a lot in what Adrian said. Different types of accountability will work in different situations. Sometimes it will be individual accountability; sometimes it needs to be more community based. Local Government is an obvious example; an elected chief commissioner is another; and sometimes it will happen nationally. Ministers will still need to have some overall system responsibility.
Q238 Chair: Ministers will need to specify who is to be accountable for what.
Gareth Davies: In any successful system what is important is clarity of accountability and responsibility.
Lindsay Roy: Are there not five other basic benchmarks, whether it is micro or macro, in relation to the Big Society initiative? They are fairly simple questions. Where are we now? How do we know? What are we going to do to improve? How will we improve it? How will we know whether we are successful?
Chair: Mr Davies?
Paul Flynn: Five seconds of silence.
Q239 Chair: Do you want to write to us on that one?
Gareth Davies: What are we trying to achieve? It is the Prime Minister’s diagnosis that, while we are richer as a country, we are more fragmented and dislocated as a society. What we are trying to achieve is an improvement of well-being. What does that look like in terms of specific measures? I would look at measures of trust and people’s sense of power and connectedness. There are lots of different Government data that we are still keeping in terms of DCMS and ultimately society. That is all the attitudinal data. You do not expect to see some behaviour change in terms of giving time and money and the use of different powers, and also the role that more wider independent providers play in public services. More fundamentally, what are we as civil servants doing now? We are implementing the coalition programme and we can be measured by the achievement of the milestones in the business plans. They would be the three tests that I would apply.
Q240 Lindsay Roy: Do these five basic questions not relate to drugs and alcohol misuse in a local community and a project there, right through to the macro issue of the Big Society and the Government’s initiative?
Gareth Davies: Obviously, I am looking at this from the Whitehall perspective, but individual communities will face their own issues and problems. Frankly, neither I nor any of my colleagues will ever have enough information to tackle those problems, hence the importance of pushing power down to the lowest possible level and commissioning action at those levels.
Q241 Chair: What you have just said is a very important point. The man in Whitehall does not know best.
Gareth Davies: There is no way I can know what is going on in a range of communities.
Matthew Taylor: But the objective is not to push power down.
Lindsay Roy: But the theme of Big Society, whether it is about small or local initiatives, is fairly simple. Where are we now? How do we know? What we are going to do about it? How are we going to proceed? How will we know we have been successful?
Chair: And what are the consequences of all of this diversity of provision?
Q242 Kelvin Hopkins : One very important point is that I do not think ordinary people in the street have been asked what they want and who they want to provide things. When they come to me they want me to deal with a problem. If it is a private company I have to say that I do not have any power over them. If it is a public service I can write to a Minister, or at least to the council, and get somebody to do something. They are publicly accountable. But the other factor people want, apart from high-quality services, is fairness; they want to be treated equally across the country and have equity. If people feel that in one part of the country they get better treatment than in another, they think it is wrong. How do we achieve equity with the Maoist chaos that you are proposing?
Matthew Taylor: In neither of those regards is public opinion as simple as you suggest it is. Two-thirds of the public say they think more power should be devolved to local level. Exactly the same proportion says that public services should be the same wherever you live. These are obviously rather contradictory positions. When it comes to equality, what people care about is fairness, but that is procedural fairness; it is fairness about the rules. They want to feel that the rules have been fairly applied. I think that is where accountability comes in. It is not so much equity that people demand as a sense that what you get is what you deserve. You will know that the thing that annoys people when you knock on doors in working-class areas is less whether the system is fair and more whether someone down the road is getting something they should not get, or, "My next door neighbour is getting something that I did not get."
Q243 Kelvin Hopkins : It is to do with equity, isn’t it?
Matthew Taylor: It is fairness rather than equity. I think accountability goes to fairness, because one of the key criteria for accountability is a sense of fairness. People want to see that public services are being distributed in a way that is transparent.
Q244 Chair: That sounds like you agree with Mr Hopkins.
Matthew Taylor: No, I am not. When he says "the public thinks this", very often what the public thinks is contradictory and depends on what questions you ask them.
Q245 Chair: I appreciate that, but we all know that the postcode lottery is a natural consequence, and whatever the Government do and the more equal they try to make things very often the less equal the outcomes. It is seen as an obligation on Government to make things equal.
Matthew Taylor: About a year ago someone from the Department for Communities and Local Government came to see me to make the case for localism. They said, "What do we do about the postcode lottery?" I said that that was the wrong way round and what we had to do was start with the critique of centralism. The fact is that central control has utterly failed to deliver equitable outcomes if you look at survival rates in hospitals, school performance or police performance. Labour had a highly centralised system. There was no evidence at all that that led to more equitable outcomes. Therefore, localism does have problems to do with postcode lottery, but let’s not posit that against a system of central control that led to equitable outcomes, because it did not.
Andrew Haldenby: Recently, the London School of Economics published a study on the first wave of Labour academies, which showed that their results had improved much more than the national average. That is an instance where decentralisation is leading towards that more equitable level of results that you are hoping for.
Q246 Kelvin Hopkins : We can argue from the particular to the general, which I think is always a logical fallacy. People want equity. I think Matthew Taylor made the point very strongly. Devolution to local authorities is one thing; devolution to a private company, or even an unaccountable charity, is something entirely different. Local authorities are accountable because they are elected. When I go to a council and say that somebody has been treated unfairly because one person has been given a house and someone else in exactly the same position has not been given a house, I have a case that can be made public and can embarrass the council. My councillors have to react.
Andrew Haldenby: But the private companies or charities are accountable through their contracts. Very often the contract is more transparent than the existing arrangements. So, the idea that there is no leverage over providers of public services if they are not public sector organisations is not true.
Matthew Taylor: I do not think this is absolutely right. There are different forms of accountability. If I get a punnet of strawberries from Sainsbury’s and find that a couple are off and take it back, Sainsbury’s will change it on the spot. If I went to the council and said, "I am not happy with the way you have collected my rubbish," it would take months and months. I am not saying that one is better than the other, but there are different models of responsiveness for different kinds of services. To suggest that the private sector is inherently unresponsive and the public sector inherently responsive flies in the face of people’s experience. Different forms of accountability and responses are needed in different contexts.
Adrian Brown: The idea that just because a public service is delivered by a nonstate actor, a private company or charity, it is not accountable is wrong. That is a mistake. If we start with that assumption we are not even looking at the possibilities of the rich way in which they can be held to account. As to the term "postcode lottery", a lottery implies that it is pot luck. Local accountability means that you can do something about it. If you have in place really strong local accountability mechanisms, which I accept are not necessarily as mature as they could be in many public services, then it is not actually a lottery; it is something that you can do something about through whatever accountability mechanisms are available to you.
Chair: Postcodes are a far too collectivist notion for my liking.
Kelvin Hopkins : When people come to see me and want to be housed, they want to be housed first in a local authority home. Second, reluctantly they might go to a housing association. The last thing they want is a private landlord. Local authority housing is accountable; they know they can go to a councillor. They come to me and we can get things done. They do not want private landlords but sometimes they are forced into private renting.
Chair: You have made your point.
Q247 Lindsay Roy: I think we would all agree that diversity is healthy. For me, what is quite critical in terms of improvement is the sharing of effective practice. To what extent is that part of the Big Society initiative? How have people thought this through in terms of exemplary work in a small location that can be transferred elsewhere?
Matthew Taylor: That is a very good point. In certain areas I worry. I see a system being replaced but I do not understand what system is to replace it. If you take academies and free schools, I see a deep hostility to local education authorities. Tony Blair had the same attitude, so there is continuity there. But when we have thousands of academies and free schools, what is the method by which those institutions will share practice, resources and collaborate? There does not seem to be any framework at all for collaboration, so it seems that there is no interest in collaboration. If it happens, fine; if it does not, fine. That is not the Big Society. I think that, if the Big Society is about one thing, it is about encouraging institutions to collaborate.
Q248 Lindsay Roy: You touch a nerve. As a head teacher part of my role was to share effective practice with other people. As a school inspector, in the same way there was too much focus on inspection and not enough on sharing effective practice.
Andrew Haldenby: It is the case that, particularly in the school sector, networks of independent schools-it could be in the state sector-are coming together to share that best practice around school improvement, but I agree with Matthew that I do not think that is part of the Government’s agenda, as it were.
Q249 Alun Cairns : Mr Taylor, would not the point you are making about the Government intervening to encourage or force collaboration, depending on how you interpret it, fly in the face of the decentralisation and localism agenda? Is it not right to say that these free academies will start working together because it will be in their own interests and the interests of those they seek to teach to do so? If it is in their interests that is the whole purpose behind it. There is ownership and responsibility, and that will facilitate co-operation in itself.
Matthew Taylor: Again, I think you have to look at this on a sector-by-sector basis. It may be in the interests of three schools and the communities of those schools that they collaborate, but it may not be in the interests of the best of those three schools to collaborate with the other two. You look incredulous, but I could take you to almost every education system in this country and would be able to point to those schools that want to collaborate and those that do not. It is the same with universities. Generally speaking, the higher achieving the institution the lower its incentive to collaborate. You do not need to collaborate; you are a high-achieving institution. You get the students and pupils you want. Why do you need to collaborate? Why do you want to sully your reputation by working with the school down the road? Therefore, collaboration is a market failure and that is why you need to create incentives for collaboration.
Q250 Chair: In Colchester the two grammar schools are very anxious to collaborate with the comprehensive sector because they want consent for the diversity of provision across the whole system.
Matthew Taylor: They want to maintain support for the 11-plus.
Q251 Chair: They want to maintain consent for their selective education.
Matthew Taylor: Exactly-so they have an interest of course.
Q252 Chair: They have an interest, but I think that disproves your adage that a high-achieving institution does not necessarily want to collaborate.
Matthew Taylor: I am delighted that Colchester is a communitarian paradise, but I can take you to other areas where the public spirit of head teachers is somewhat less.
Chair: Do we have anything further to add? I think it has been a very useful session. One or two extremely useful nuggets have come out of it as well as an enormous amount of background, in particular how the Cabinet Office could take a more directive role in getting Government departments to ask themselves the questions and produce the answers. That may well be the thrust of our report, and certainly might be the direction of the cross-examination of the Minister on this question as we reach the end of our inquiry. Thank you very much indeed. It has been a very rich session, and I am most grateful to you all.