Memorandum from the Department of the
Environment, Transport and the Regions
1. This memorandum responds to the request for
information from the Environmental Audit Committee. The Committee's
questions and requests are repeated or summarised here in italics.
THE CSR PROCESS
Please summarise the main stages, outputs
and decision processes involved in the Department's CSRs and how
sustainable development implications were addressed. The Committee
would also welcome DETR's view on the addressing of sustainable
development issues in the CSR process as a whole.
2. The Department's approach to the CSR followed
the central guidance and timetable laid down by Treasury. Within
this framework, early work concentrated on the structure the review
should take and on drawing up terms of reference. Given the wide
range of responsibilities within DETR's remit, it was decided
that efforts needed to be directed to six key areas:
housing (considered jointly with
the Department of Social Security);
countryside and rural policy (considered
jointly with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food);
3. A review of the local government finance
system was also undertaken with older departments in parallel
with the work on these six policy areas.
4. The Department was conscious of the need
for integration of policy across these areas and so developed
overarching terms of reference, as well as terms of reference
for the six individual review areas. The DETR news release of
24 July, contained all the terms of reference for the CSR.
5. Work was taken forward through steering groups
of officials for each of the six reviews and a further group looking
across all the six areas. The Treasury, No. 10 Policy Unit and
the Efficiency Unit were represented in each case and other departments
involvedeither through membership of steering groups or
ad hoc consultationas policy interest dictated Ministers
were consulted regularly and kept informed of progress by the
steering groups throughout the process. The Deputy Prime Minister
and other DETR Ministers agreed the main issues to be addressed
at the outset, the conclusions to be reached from the reviews
and the detailed contents of the reports.
6. Progress reports were made to PX Cabinet
Committee in October 1997 and the subsequent feedback from the
Committee taken into account. A final report covering all DETR's
CSR work was put to PX in March 1998 and the outcome was summarised
in Chapter 8 of the Government's CSR White Paper issued in July
1998 (Cm 4011). The outcome involved detailed negotiations between
the Department and the Treasury over key issues such as the resources
to be made available to the Department and key targets to be delivered.
7. Sustainable development was identified as
a key element of DETR's CSR work from the outset. It is referred
to in the first paragraph of the overarching terms of reference
and was a basic consideration of each of the six policy reviews.
8. The transport spending review was conducted
in tandem with the development of the integrated transport White
Paper, and the review of the trunk road programme, both of which
explicitly took as a central theme the importance of sustainable
development. Achieving a sustainable transport system is the core
aim of the new integrated transport policy as set out in the White
Paper. It aims to extend choice in transport and secure mobility
in a way that at all times supports sustainable development.
9. The review of trunk roads assessed proposals
against a range of criteria, including impact on the environment,
the economy and the social dimension. The results of the Roads
Review have been published in A New Deal for Trunk Roads in
England. Chapter 8 of that document provides an overview of
the environmental and other benefits and costs.
10. In the case of the environment review, sustainable
development considerations were at the heart of the review and
permeated the whole debate. As a result of the CSR, an extra £174
million has been allocated for spending on energy efficiency,
and spending on other environmental protection programmes is being
increased by £80 million over the next three years. This
includes £50 million to enable the new contaminated land
regime to be implemented and £15 million for the Environment
11. The countryside and rural review brought
together the diverse streams of economic and social development;
protection and enhancement of all aspects of biodiversity; and
recreation and access to the countryside. Accordingly, sustainable
development was a key feature of this review. This can be illustrated
by two examples.
12. First, is the decision to merge the Countryside
Commission with part of the Rural Development Commission to create
a new body to champion rural England and the English countryside.
The new merged agency will play a central role in delivering the
Government's vision for the countryside. It will integrate:
economic and social development policies;
policies for protecting and enhancing
the beauty and diversity of the countryside;
policies for promoting access to
13. The second example is the announcement that
closer strategic planning arrangements will be developed between
DETR and MAFF on countryside matters (see also the responseparagraphs
36 and 37 below-to the Committee's question on a joint DETR-MAFF
Public Service Agreement). This necessitates an integrated approach
that gives equal consideration to environmental, social and economic
14. This regeneration review resulted in agreement
on an overall regeneration and regional policy objective which
is "to enhance economic and social cohesion throughout England
through effective regional action and integrated local regeneration
programmes". It has a number of sub-objectives which are
relevant to sustainable development in its broadest sense but,
in particular, they include bringing derelict, contaminated and
disused land and derelict buildings back into use, and preventing
the deterioration of land and buildings.
15. Sustainable development principles are fundamental
to the planning system, which embraces a number of policy areas,
including transport, housing, regeneration and environmental protection.
The planning CSR focused on the effectiveness of the planning
system, drawing on work that was already underway on improving
efficiency, decentralising policies to a regional level, accommodating
household growth and integrated transport.
16. While Treasury were responsible for co-ordinating
the handling of reviews across departments, the Deputy Prime Minister
wrote to all his Cabinet colleagues at the commencement of the
CSR, stressing to them the importance of sustainable development
and the need for them to bear this in mind in carrying out their
CSR ON HOUSING
Were the sustainable development implications
(positive and negative) from housing police identified?at
what stage in the process?in what detail?was the
comprehensiveness of this work confirmed by reference to any outside
17. The Housing CSR concentrated on the major
housing and welfare consequences of Government expenditure programmes,
such as capital expenditure by local authorities on the housing
stock. The overall aim of the review was to ensure that housing
policies contributed to the Government's objective of offering
everyone the opportunity of a decent home, and so promoting social
cohesion, well-being and self-dependence. In terms of sustainable
development, the review addressed the positive and negative implications
of housing policy in respect of social and economic progress and,
to a lesser extent, environmental protection.
18. In looking at the implications for social
and economic progress, the review included some very detailed
analysis of the links between housing policy and social exclusion.
This was backed up by extensive research, including the findings
of the 1996 English House Condition Survey, published earlier
19. The review considered environmental protection
in less detail because it was conducted in parallel with a number
of other reviews which were considering in more detail the impact
of housing on the environment. These included:
the Government's consideration of
its policies for accommodating the demand for new housing arising
from the projected growth in the number of households in England
(where, for example, a 60 per cent. target has been introduced
for the proportion of new housing development which must take
place on previously developed sites);
the Environment CSR, particularly
in respect of the Government's programmes for promoting energy
efficiency and tackling fuel poverty;
a review of the climate change programme,
including the part played by the domestic sector;
a review to establish the maximum
possible contribution that could be made to achieving the Government's
carbon dioxide targets through the Building Regulations;
consultation on revising the UK Sustainable
Development Strategy which, amongst other things, is addressing
action to help build sustainable communities;
consultation, linked to the revision
of the Sustainable Development Strategy, on sustainable construction;
the work of the Construction Task
Force which has presented recommendations to Government on the
scope for improving quality and efficiency in UK construction,
including the house building industry.
20. The Housing CSR sought to take account of
these other reviews but not to duplicate them.
21. Ministers determined the main issues to
be addressed in the Housing CSR without formal reference to outside
bodies. However, the terms of reference for the Housing CSR were
widely publicised and were sent to a number of non-governmental
organisations. This process elicited a significant number of contributions
to the reviewincluding contributions from organisations
and individuals with specific interests in sustainable developmentwhich
were taken into account.
22. The reviews of household growth policy,
the climate change programme, the achievement of carbon dioxide
targets through the Building Regulations and the UK Sustainable
Development Strategy (including sustainable construction) have
all been founded on comprehensive public consultation. The Construction
Task Force members were drawn from outside Government.
Did the review identify housing policies
and/or subsidies which have an adverse environmental impact; run
contrary to sustainable development objectives; and/or could be
considered to be "unjustified"? If so, please briefly
describe each one and your plans for addressing the matter.
23. The Deputy Prime Minister's statement on
Housing and Regeneration Policy, published on 22 July, set out
the main conclusions of the Housing CSR. For the reasons outlined
above, the issues addressed were mainlybut not exclusivelyrelated
to social and economic progress. The issues, and the policies
set in place to address them, included.
the need to increase investment
in social infrastructure;
In local authority housing alone, a
£10 billion backlog of renovation work was identified, contributing
to rundown local environments, poor energy efficiency and social
exclusion. The Government has provided an additional £3.9
billion for housing over the next three years to begin to redress
this under-investment. This will lead to improvements in the condition
of the housing stock. In addition to the social benefits that
this will bring, the investment will also deliver improvements
to local environments and to the energy efficiency of the stock.
The improvements delivered through this investment will be complemented
by an extra £174 million being provided specifically to improve
the energy efficiency of the homes of people on low incomes and
to help meet the UK's commitments on climate change.
the need to link investment decisions
to local circumstances;
The review identified the need for local
authority housing strategies to address problems in public and
private housing sectors, based on proper local assessments of
need, and to be delivered through more localised investment decisions.
Of the additional £3.9 billion allocated for housing over
the next three years, £3.6 billion will be allocated to local
authorities. Combined with proposals to create a single pot for
local authority housing capital, this will give them the scope
to take a more strategic approach to housing, taking better account
of local needs and priorities and improving the contribution that
capital investment in housing makes to social, economic and environmental
the need to invest public resources
Inefficient use of public resources
runs contrary to sustainable development objectives. With a significant
increase in resources for housing being directed through local
authorities, the Government concluded that policies should be
developed to improve efficiency. This was supported by the Construction
Task Force, which found that scope existed to reduce construction
costs by 10 per cent. per annum. Improvements will be driven by
the introduction of Best Value and a Housing Inspectorate. Further
efficiency improvements will be delivered by proposals to encourage
local authorities to separate their strategic and management functions
for housing, and by introducing resource accounting for local
the need to involve tenants in
The review identified a need to increase
tenant involvement in housing management, both to ensure better
service delivery and to reduce social exclusion. This finding
was supported by responses to consultation on the Sustainable
Development Strategy, where a significant number of respondents
pointed to the importance of participation in helping to build
sustainable communities. The Government has proposed Tenant Participation
Compacts, to be established in all local authorities by April
2000. The Government's tenant participation grants programme has
also been expanded.
the need to tackle social exclusion;
The review helped to identify the significant
impact which housing policy has on social exclusion. Greater social
cohesion is expected to be delivered through increased and more
efficient investment in housing and increased tenant involvement,
as outlined above. But action has also been identified to tackle
the most extreme examples of social exclusion, as part of a cross-governmental
programme. This includes an enhanced programme to tackle rough
sleeping, and the development of a new strategy to address the
problems of Britain's most deprived neighbourhoods.
24. The Housing CSR also considered Housing
Benefit and rent levels in social housing. However, because Housing
Benefit is integral to the system of social welfare, it is being
considered further in the context of the government's wider welfare
reform process. The CSR also concluded that structural changes
to Housing Benefit could not be considered in isolation from the
level and structure of social sector rents. No decision was reached
on rent policy in the longer term.
Did the Department undertake environmental
appraisals of new spending proposals in its CSR, in particular
the proposal to invest additional money in improving council housing?
If environmental appraisals were not carried out, please provide
the reason for this. And please confirm whether the Department
carried out initial screening exercises to determine whether environmental
appraisal would be required. What were the conclusions?
25. Because the emphasis of the Housing CSR
was primarily on the social aspects of housing policy, with impacts
on the environment considered more extensively in other reviews,
no formal environmental appraisals of new spending proposals were
26. The review did recognise the significance
for the environment of investment in housing. In considering the
levels of resources necessary to begin to redress past under-investment
in housing, the review examined evidence from the 1996 English
House Condition Survey and identified, amongst other things, costs
associated with improving the energy efficiency of the stock and
improving rundown local environments in the most deprived areas.
Will the new policies in the housing CSR
now be subject to further environmental appraisal? If so, please
explain what the requirements are for this appraisal and any related
approval processes, including the timing of the various stages
27. The impacts of Government policies emerging
from the Housing CSR are mainly on social and economic progress.
Capital investment will deliver improvements to the physical environment
and to the energy efficiency of the stock, but the Government's
policy is to devolve responsibility for investment decisions as
far as possible to local authorities. The Department issues guidance
to local authorities to encourage good practice in this respect,
including guidance on the Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment procedure,
Circular 17/96 on private sector renewal, the joint DETR/Building
Research Establishment energy efficiency best practice programme
and guidance on energy services, the Home Energy Conservation
Act. The more detailed procedures for investment in local authority
housing are set out in answer to the following question.
Please describe the funding arrangements
for the investment in council housing improvements and DETR's
role in approving plans and expenditure. Has the Department set
any prerequisites regarding sustainable development implications
or targets, for example in terms of reduced energy use; installation
of water meters and water efficient appliances; using other environmentally
preferred goods and services?
28. Resources for housing capital expenditure
by local authorities in England are allocated via the annual Housing
Investment Programme (HIP) exercise. Allocations are made partly
on the basis of Indices of housing need and partly on assessments,
made by Government Offices for the Regions, of authorities' housing
strategies and their relative performance in delivering housing
services. This approach provides a strong incentive to authorities
to use these resources efficiently and effectively and also directs
resources to those authorities who have shown they can make the
best use of them.
29. The assessment process involves a scrutiny
of authorities' proposed investment programmes but no attempt
is made to agree the programme in detail or to be prescriptive
about specific elements of the programme. This reflects the underlying
principle that local authorities are best placed to take decisions,
in conjunction with local partners, about the use of housing capital
resources in their area. There is, however, a substantial amount
of guidance about what is expected of a good housing strategy
and how authorities' performance will be assessed. This emphasises
the importance of sustainability and energy efficiency issues.
30. The Department's guidance on Local Housing
Strategies issued earlier this year explains that the strategy
needs to be forward looking, covering at least three years, drawn
up in consultation with other interested parties and set in the
context of the Government's national housing policies. The guidance
makes specific reference to the need for the strategy to promote
balanced sustainable communities and the example in the section
on objective setting refers to the improvement of existing stock
lacking energy efficient heating systems.
31. General guidance on the operation of the
HIP exercise and the assessment process includes a number of references
to energy efficiency considerations. In particular, there is a
separate item on energy efficiency issues within the assessment
framework. This ties in with the plans for improving the energy
efficiency of the housing stock which are required under the Home
Energy Conservation Act (HECA) 1995. The proposed programmes of
work on authorities' own stock would be expected to say what impact
the work would have on the energy efficiency of the stock and
how this fits in with its HECA targets.
Why has the Department not made a commitment
in its statements on how it will deliver against its objectives
to doing so in a way which addresses their environmental impacts
and implications for sustainable development, alongside their
commitments to operate efficiently and effectively and as good
employers of staff?
32. The Department's 1998 Annual Report (Cm
3906, page 4) sets out DETR's aim and main objectives and the
principles and approach followed in achieving them. Sustainable
development is a key element of the Department's overarching aim
to improve the quality of life by
promoting sustainable development at home and abroad, fostering
economic prosperity and supporting local democracy.
33. DETR's first main objective is:
to protect and improve the environment,
and to integrate the environment with other policies across Government
and in international fora.
34. This clearly signals the priority given
to ensuring that the environment is taken into account in all
Government policies, both those of DETR and other departments.
The Department's principles and approach rightly give a commitment
to using resources efficiently while at the same time taking into
account the costs and benefits of that usage. As the Department's
aim and objectives indicate, environmental factors are very much
a part of these considerations.
Will the Department's public service agreement
address its management of inputs and environmental impacts as
well as outputs? Will it extend to services delivered by its agencies?
Local authorities? Public-private partnerships in regeneration
35. The Department's Public Service Agreement
will restate DETR's aim, objectives, principles and approach which,
as already indicated, have sustainable development at their core.
In seeking to ensure that environmental factors are taken into
account in all Government policies, the Department will expect
this to be followed by its agencies, by local authorities and
by public-private partnerships in regeneration schemes, and it
will put the appropriate frameworks in place to allow that to
Will there be a joint public service agreement
from DETR and MAFF in respect of their joint aim of enhancing
opportunity in rural areas and strengthening countryside conservation?
36. The CSR revealed that the overall aims and
objectives of DETR and MAFF were consistent and generally accorded
with each other. It did not, however, determine joint aims and
objectives. Both departments want to move quickly to the establishment
of a joint planning framework. Detailed work on the scope of such
a framework is currently being undertaken and is looking, in particular,
at sensible programme boundaries so that the arrangements can
be as focused and meaningful as possible. It is important that
proper consultation takes place with the Non-Departmental Public
Bodies and agencies through whom most of the countryside programmes
37. Given the need to get these arrangements
rights, the two Departments are proceeding with separate Public
Service Agreements. But the two separate Public Service Agreements
will include clear time targets for getting the improved joint
planning arrangements in place. These arrangements will involve
publication of joint objectives, a description of the programme
needed to achieve those objectives and plans for measuring performance
against the objectives.
THE CSR GENERALLY
Does the Department consider it appropriate
that it is the only Department whose revised aims and objectives
refer to promoting sustainable development, although MAFF refers
to having regard to the principles of sustainable development?
38. The Government's commitment to put the environment
at the heart of decision making applies to all departments. It
is supported by a framework which includes Green Ministers in
each department and requirements for policies with significant
environmental effects to be subject to environmental appraisal.
The extent to which departments' aims and objectives specifically
refer to sustainable development is a matter for the individual
departments concerned, rather than for DETR.
39. The Government's memorandum to the Environmental
Audit Committee, in response to its report on the Greening Government
initiative, commits the Government to consider the case for incorporating
sustainable development into the remit of all new bodies as they
are created. Green Ministers have also been asked to consider
and report to the Cabinet Committee on the Environment on how
far sustainable development should be incorporated into the remit
of existing departments and Non-Departmental Public Bodies.
Was any provision made within the CSR process
for the Department to obtain information on other departments'
CSRs and new spending proposals so that it could consider their
implications for sustainable development?
40. DETR was keen to see sustainable development
reflected in the CSR process and encouraged other departments
to integrate consideration of the environment into their reviews.
The Department worked closely with other departments on cross-cutting
reviews, for example with MAFF on the countryside and rural policy
review and with the DSS on housing. The Department also kept in
close touch with other departments' reviews in so far as they
concerned services delivered by local authorities, because DETR
has overall responsibility for sponsorship and finance of local
government. DETR did not, however, routinely receive detailed
information on other aspects of other departments' reviews or
spending plan proposals during the CSR. It is the responsibility
of each individual department to take account of sustainable development
in its activities.
Should the Deputy Prime Minister have a role
in the Cabinet Committee responsible for reviewing departmental
spending to ensure that wherever possible departments have taken
opportunities to develop services and facilities consistent with
the Government's commitment to sustainable development?
41. The Committee on public spending will be
chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and its membership
will consist largely of Ministers from departments with relatively
small levels of public expenditure. It would not be appropriate
for the Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of one of the largest
spending departments, to be on a Cabinet Committee responsible
for making recommendations on expenditure plans. In any representations
he makes to the Committee, however, the Deputy Prime Minister
will have the wider commitment to sustainable development in mind.
There will also be many other channels open to the Department
to encourage other departments to develop services and facilities
consistent with the Government's commitment to sustainable development.
Principal amongst these will be DETR Ministers' membership of
various Cabinet Committees, supported by the network of Green