Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 240 - 259)



  240.  How can you assess the benefits if you do not know the costs?
  (Mr Wood)  I do not understand.

  241.  How can the Government assess the benefits of the change when they do not know the cost of it?
  (Mr Wood)  The Government are not saying to themselves that they must put in hand a grand exercise that exhaustively identifies the costs and benefits.


  242.  We are not asking for exhaustive figures; we want some indicative figures. The department has not come up with even vague figures. At least on the minimum wage the department had a vague idea, but on this matter it is simply said that this is what the Government have put in and they do not really know what it has cost?
  (Mr Wood)  That is absolutely correct. I accept that this is an important backward-looking exercise, but I emphasise that local government reorganisation is not on the Government's agenda. They are using their limited resources in a quite different direction for the future of local government.

Mrs Dunwoody

  243.  The whole basis of the evidence that you have given has been very precise as to the amount of money that the department expends on behalf of the Government. You are saying that the parameters for the political decision will govern the way in which you advise government Ministers and the way they disburse money. The reality is that the effects of local government reorganisation are still reverberating throughout the local government system. Without demanding the setting up of special units or resources, it would not be beyond the wit of a man or woman in your department to identify this information. It must have an ongoing implication. We are not asking exactly how much was spent and exactly how much came back in or what the cost would have been without reorganisation. We are asking why, given that manifestly the effects are still flowing through the system, your department is not keeping a running total. One would expect an ordinary book-keeper to keep a running total of what is going on. Why is that information not readily available to the department?
  (Mr Wood)  Because it is not collected precisely in that form. It may be helpful if I give a further figure that may cast some light on it but not a conclusive light. As I recall, the total of the bids which local authorities submitted for supplementary credit approvals to be set alongside the £428 million was some £570 million. In considering those the department must take into account that they are bids and ask whether or not they cover the sort of costs that it thinks should be covered by this heading. Admittedly, these are not total outturn costs, which is what you are really driving at, but they give an indication of the costs that local authorities themselves said, albeit in a bidding context, fell upon them—hence my confidence in saying that the SCA figures must cover the great bulk of the costs which local authorities anticipated they would need to spend.


  244.  It seems to me to be very odd that we are here to scrutinise your estimates and within your estimates some of the figures are not robust at all?
  (Mr Wood)  The figures that I have given you are very robust.

  245.  But you cannot justify why the £428 million was chosen?
  (Mr Wood)  It was a series of assessments made of individual local authorities' bids over a period of five years taken year after year after year. It is the sum of the allocations to each of the individual authorities affected by the reorganisation.

  246.  The logic of it is that, having made those guesses, they should be measured against the actual cost to see whether your estimating process is any good at all?
  (Mr Wood)  I have heard, understood and will take back the Sub-Committee's clear, strong message, but the Government are now concerned with a different agenda.

Christine Butler

  247.  Turning to page 32 of the report of the 2,114 businesses which started under City Challenge in 1995-96, how many have closed?
  (Mr Evans)  We do not know the answer to that at the moment. The arrangements under City Challenge did not have specific monitoring for business closures. We do however have in progress an evaluation of the whole of the City Challenge programme. It is about half-way through. The contractors are bringing together information from such monitoring as the individual City Challenge authorities undertook and making inquiries of their own through questionnaires of local businesses. It is hoped that at the end of that process we will have some indication of the extent of closures of businesses that have been started up under the whole of the City Challenge programme.

  248.  What sort of information do you have presently on the likely success rate?
  (Mr Evans)  It is very limited, in the sense that we have a small amount of monitoring of information. But it was not part of the routine of City Challenge to make an assessment of the likelihood of success of individual businesses. Obviously, they were started on the basis that they would succeed but their chances of success were not given a percentage rating; nor was that necessarily determined in individual cases and their success or otherwise traced through. We have taken the implied lesson in your question into the single regeneration budget. One of the monitoring elements is designed to ensure that————

  249.  When was the decision taken to start to monitor it?
  (Mr Evans)  I am not sure. We have certainly put it in as one of the indicators to monitor the single regeneration budget. Essentially, that would have occurred two years ago.

  250.  Why have Safe City projects been closed down?
  (Mr Evans)  Safer City projects were part of the time-limited sequence of programmes introduced originally on their own, and then they became part of the single regeneration budget. We have two follow-ups to that. As part of the single regeneration budget and the ordinary round of projects being undertaken under that budget, about half have community safety as one of the key elements. Therefore, community safety in that sense has not ceased to be part of regeneration programmes in local areas. In addition, under the Crime and Disorder Bill the Government propose to have multi-agency partnerships at local level which will carry out similar work.

  251.  But what monitoring arrangements are in place for the community safety partnerships which are continuing?
  (Mr Evans)  The Safer Cities programme was essentially about a particular way of getting local partnerships together to consider the creation of local community safety arrangements. We are not directly continuing to monitor those individual partnerships at local level. From the conversations that I have had with the main contractors who manage the Safer City programmes for us, quite a lot of them have become merged into the mainstream of local activity either through police liaison arrangements or wider local authority partnerships.

  252.  Does the department ever monitor and evaluate these projects?
  (Mr Evans)  We have evaluations of the Safer City programme but not of the long-term life of those individual partnerships set up at local level.


  253.  Can you tell me a Safer City project that has been successful?
  (Mr Evans)  The ones of which I have experience have been in the North East. I recall that wider partnerships were being created and it appeared that the impetus that the Safer City programmes had given had brought into play quite a lot of community safety activity, particularly the local police force.

Christine Butler

  254.  What about the London Docklands Development Corporation and the investment promised from the private sector? Was that realised?
  (Mr Evans)  London Docklands has been significantly successful in bringing a great deal of private sector investment into the area.

  255.  Were the targets realised?
  (Mr Evans)  Substantially, I believe. We are in the middle of the final evaluation of all of the urban development corporations. One of them that is about to be published is on London Docklands. We can let you have information about the final outturn.

  256.  Therefore, you will be having an evaluation of the whole initiative. It is coming?
  (Mr Evans)  Yes. There have been a number of partial evaluations that the individual urban development corporations have gone through, but we are bringing together particularly the large-scale exercise on London Docklands as one of the most significant. Smaller scale evaluations are being made on a number of urban development corporations.

  257.  Do you have a cost per job created for the UDC scheme in the period 1996 to 1998?
  (Mr Evans)  Yes, with some caveats. What we are able to measure over that period are the total figures for the jobs created and the total spend which can be looked at in two ways. Of course, the jobs are only part of the bundle of benefits; they are only particular forms of spending over the period. With that caveat, in the two years that you quote the last eight urban development corporations led to 55,800 jobs being created. If one compares that with the grant-in-aid of a little over £350 million—the sum of money which the Government gave to the urban development corporations - the cost per job was £6,400. If one compares it with the total amount that UDCs spent over that period—they were at that stage using a good measure of the receipts available to them - the cost per job was about £15,300.

Mrs Dunwoody

  258.  Are you going to include estimates of the cost to the taxpayer of the Limehouse Link which was very much what the LDDC wanted?
  (Mr Evans)  In what sense? The overall figures for the cost of the UDC will include its contributions to infrastructure improvements like the Limehouse Link.

Christine Butler

  259.  Which was the most successful regeneration initiative?
  (Mr Evans)  I think that all of the UDCs had successes. We have been looking at them in a sense to try to evaluate them in two ways. For example, what are the kinds of projects and processes that were done well and succeeded on their own terms at local level? Obviously, the urban development corporations are a set of programmes which effectively are now finished. What we have been trying to establish are the broad lessons emerging from that work that might be carried out forward into further regeneration programmes.

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