Examination of witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 13 MAY 1998
and MR BOB
60. And it is important also to recognise
that we can sometimes learn things from their society and it is
not all one way.
(Ms Mullan) Absolutely.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
61. May I ask an unkind question and say
that there are other European cities which have done a much better
job about the way to manage traffic and the other issues you were
mentioning. Presumably they also have twinning arrangements with
cities in TACIS and the like.
(Mr Jeffs) Yes, they do.
62. Do you know how they get on? Are they
more paternalistic because they have done a better job or do the
Russians respect us more because of the problems?
(Ms Mullan) That is a very good point. Working
in the European field, you actually become quite sensitised to
the best ways of dealing with various Member State nationals and
I think we are, as Brits, actually quite sensitive to other people.
When we first put in an application for TACIS funding, it was
as a result of a meeting that we had with the Mayor of Kaliningrad
and present with us were contacts in Cherbourg because we work
very closely with the French city of Cherbourg. They wanted to
put in a TACIS bid as well and we agreed to go in on an tripartite
relationship where the French would be majoring on social housing
and we would major on urban transportation. We did not want particularly
to major on urban transportation, but the Mayor of Kaliningrad
very much wanted these two areas of activity. We agreed with the
French partners that we would share the training so that part
of the time their Russians would be in France and then we would
receive their Russians while they would receive our Russians.
Unfortunately, the French bid did not succeed, so that dimension
did not work out totally, but we did send our Russians to France
for a week so that they would see how a French urban transport
system does work. If you want quite a humorous anecdote, with
our Russians, we gave them an extremely good time, they worked
very hard, they enjoyed their stay, everyone was very friendly
and hospitable and they had a real insight as to how a local authority
in the UK functions and how British people live, but we did not
shower them with gifts when they left; we gave them some mugs
with "Southampton" written on the side. When the French
received them, they had them for a week and they sent them away
with three buses and that is the disparity in the sort of resources
we can access. We cannot possibly hope to give our Russians any
buses, but they went away with three French buses. We were not
paternalistic, we treated them as equals.
(Mr Pinkett) Could I just add that I think the
interesting thing about the UK experienceand I am not saying
we are nearer to the NIS in some sort of Third World wayis
that, ironically, because of the breakdown of some of the systems
we have had, we have got similar sorts of problems. They trust
our judgment on this because we are coming to them not like Strasbourg
with a perfect million pound tram system or whatever, but we are
saying that small is beautiful and voluntary schemes are good,
and also the self-help attitude and the commercialism which we
bring and they are surprised to see that from local authorities.
A lot of, shall we say, Continental local authorities are run
much nearer to the way the NIS used to be run and I do not think
that they want more of the same; they want something different
and the UK authorities can give them that.
63. I think we want to ask about monitoring
and evaluation of the TACIS programmes.
(Mr Jeffs) Well, during our first project which
has now finished, we were visited from Paris by the Technical
Support Unit and they completed a written report on us. We were
then monitored by the TACIS Monitoring Unit which, in our case,
was based in Rotterdam. They went out to Svetlogorsk and to the
regional capital, Gomel, and we had a three-page report then.
Then we were part of an evaluation process which was undertaken
by a consortium of consultants again and they again went out to
Gomel and to Svetlogorsk, so I think we have been pretty well
examined. Again, if I may say so, it illustrates this concept,
or it goes against this concept that getting money from the EU
is a soft touch because it certainly is not. I think we have been
put through a wringer on a number of occasions.
(Mr Pinkett) Can I add one comment and this is
a cautionary tale? I have been advised privately that UK authorities
have been evaluated probably more than any other authorities because
the chances are that we will have done it right. We have seen
a great deal of evaluation on all of our three projects and I
know all the UK projects seem to have been. When questioned on
this, there was a sort of implied comment that, "Well, we
know that we would not find anything too horrendous if we went
looking in your books but we might in some other cities elsewhere",
so there is an element of that which is pleasing to know.
64. Yes, they were looking for a model to
offer to other people.
(Mr Pinkett) Yes, indeed. They need to report
successes and that is the problem for the TACIS planners, that
they must continually report success.
Chairman: That is
a very cynical point.
Lord Hughes of Woodside
65. I think you have explained very clearly
what you believe are the keys to success in a TACIS project which
are face-to-face involvement, building up trust and so on, which
must take a lot of time. How does one ensure that the benefits
continue after the project has finished?
(Mr Jeffs) I think perhaps the answer is in the
question. This is just part of, I think in all three cases, an
ongoing commitment to particular cities in the former Soviet Union.
Because Local Agenda 21 is such an overarching concept, and our
HIV project flowed very naturally from that and we are half-way
through that now, I took with me to Svetlogorsk the Director of
Public Health for Somerset which is the Health Authority because,
as I said previously, if I can get somebody out there, then I
have got them as committed people. It hardly ever fails. I took
the Job Centre Manager from Wells and he spent some time in their
job centre, and also two youth workers in addition to the mainstream
project workers on the HIV project, so we are looking forward
now to undertaking projects. We have been asked to assist perhaps
reflecting Kaliningrad on what we can do to get people with disability
into work. The former Soviet Union guaranteed a job for able-bodied
people, but if you were disabled, and I think there are 100 blind
people, for example, in Svetlogorsk, you just sit at home, and
you need every bread-winner you can just to buy the food at the
moment, so the consequences of having someone disabled in the
family are very, very serious, so we are looking forward to doing
a number of other projects. Funding will be difficult because
there is no TACIS and we will have to rely upon the Know-How Fund
and we will try and be even more ingenious.
66. I was thinking maybe more about when
you have done the training, built the relationship, and then the
project stops. Now, somebody once said that the measure of success
of an NGO is that it has a limited life and that the local community
should not be dependent on the NGO and they should not be dependent
on the TACIS programmes, and I am not saying you should become
involved in other things, but what about follow-on activities?
Can you draw any conclusions? Are there any signs that the enthusiasm
for the project wanes after a while and has to be restimulated?
How do you view that?
(Mr Jeffs) I think perhaps there is a bit of both,
yes, perhaps it does wane and our continuing involvement can then
help to reinvigorate it. A number of projects which have been
initiated at that end will follow. They are now seriously looking
at sustainable tourism. Belarus consists of one huge forest and
there is enormous scope there in wildlife projects. They are looking
at water purification, they are looking at recycling, so a number
of things are going on. However, I do take the point, that occasional
encouragement is very helpful.
(Ms Mullan) Could I also talk about the political
context because one of our concerns was that it was all very well
producing this training, but it was very much dependent on certain
people's support and there was very strong support from the political
leadership both in Southampton and in Kaliningrad, but we had
to be realistic. We were talking about maybe six people within
the municipality who were key to the project. Now, sadly, the
Mayor of Kaliningrad died after our trainees returned, after the
second phase of the training, and we had very much built a strategy
that depended on that senior support being there. Having said
that, we have got the continuing support of the politicians in
Kaliningrad. We have not had elections following the death of
the Mayor yet, but there is a temporary Mayor in place. There
is a Transport Strategy Development Group which consists of representatives
of private transport operators, the traffic police, the municipal
and the regional authorities, as well as ordinary users and representatives
from the neighbourhood committees, so we are hoping through that
that we will have some ongoing life to the project, plus the fact
that we have identified opportunities through Southampton University's
Transport Research Group, the Baltic Academy, the Southampton
Institute for Public Policy Unit and other developments have come
out of that. One of the criticisms we had at the end conference
of this City Twinning Programme was that people were geared up
to continuing the work and we were all very, very disappointed
to hear that there was going to be a hiatus and that after evaluation
of this round of TACIS City Twinning Programmes, we would not
know what the future would be until, I think they said, December
of this year. Now, that really was a disappointment because we
felt we needed to maintain the momentum, but we have sought to
avoid anybody or any project being dependent on our support or
the European funding and there will be an independent autonomy
there which I think will guarantee its continuity hopefully without
too many major political changes because that would be catastrophic.
Lord Mackie of Benshie
67. Could I suggest that one of the biggest
helps to tourism would be getting the loos right and keeping them
(Mr Jeffs) Do not even mention that! I think that
applies to Wells as well in Somerset.
68. Very fortunately you were in the room,
I think, when the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
were giving their evidence, so I think that might have been quite
helpful to be able to sit and listen to them as well. What I am
looking for really here is a comment from you on the availability
of finance, for example, from the EBRD for project implementation
and is there a problem of lack of experience of raising finance
in the NIS? I am not sure, from having heard what you say, if
you are going to be able to answer this question, but I think
you will. I would also tack on to the end of that that they are
not in the room now and it would be useful to me if there was
something that they said about this funding which you felt actually
was not consistent at all. It would be helpful, I think.
(Mr Jeffs) I just do not recognise the world in
which they are operating.
69. I suspected that might be so.
(Mr Jeffs) I wondered if I was in the same subject
inquiry. That is not a derogatory comment, but there is no way
any sub-national, as they refer to it, body could obtain credit
in Belarus. It is inconceivable. That is it really.
(Mr Pinkett) I think that with the sources of
finance that they are looking at, invariably they look towards
the World Bank and EBRD and they find that realistically there
are not the opportunities there for them for the size of projects
that we are involved in. Remember, we are talking about small-scale
projects. We are not talking about rebuilding the city or anything
like that, but we are talking about small-scale projects and that
sort of money is not there. The frustration, I think, for us in
trying to find ways of taking a project from the planning and
creating the right environment for things to work in the future
is if the next thing they have to go to is commercial investors.
For example, in the city I am dealing with, they need to renew
their fleet and the only way they are going to do it is by locking
themselves into a very punitive system with Ikarus of Hungary
or Skoda or one of the Russian bus manufacturers which it really
would be better if they did not lock themselves into, but that
is the only finance available to them. I think the local authority
people generally have become very knowledgeable about this area,
but our frustration is that we cannot obviously assist them to
find any sources other than, at one extreme, the commercial providers
of finance and these very big sources, such as the World Bank
and the EBRD.
(Ms Mullan) In our experience, very limited experience,
it has to be said, we were working with the local transport operator,
Southern Vectis, and they were very much encouraging our people
to think about improving the infrastructure by going for a major
loan, but the Kaliningrad Municipality was not interested and
it was very, very reluctant to take out loan funding of any kind
and very concerned about being able to service the loan.
70. If you look at what has happened in
the Far East, they are probably right not to get too deeply involved
with it. Well, thank you very much. It has been absolutely fascinating
and we have learnt a lot, I think, about actual projects on the
ground and what can be done by enthusiasm.
(Mr Jeffs) If I may say so, if you are looking
for projects to visit, then we can oil the wheels and very easily
arrange some fascinating visits for you.
Chairman: Thank you
very much indeed, and we are most grateful, but I am afraid we
are going to be stuck with looking at systems and things like
that rather than projects. Thank you.