Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence


Annex A

OVERARCHING THEMES AND COMMON ISSUES

GOVERNMENT-WIDE OBJECTIVES

  1.  The Government's overarching themes for the 2000 Review, which were set out in the Chief Secretary's letter of 4 August to Ministers in charge of departments, are:

    —  Opportunity for everyone to fulfill their potential through education and employment;

    —  A fair and inclusive society in which communities are healthy and secure;

    —  Higher productivity, sustainable growth and effective co-operation with our European and international partners.

  2.  The Chief Secretary's letter also made it clear that the Government expects every department to deliver effective and responsive services, improving efficiency and managing assets and other resources well.

  3.  Ultimately, it should be possible for each department or cross-cutting unit to demonstrate how their aim, objectives, targets and Review proposals generally help deliver this agenda; targets and objectives should be framed accordingly.

COMMON ISSUES

  4.  When drawing up their proposals in the Review, departments should ensure that they reflect the Government's commitment to improve the way in which policy is developed and the results it delivers. In practice this means providing properly informed advice to Ministers on the consequences of choices before proposals are put forward. An IT based checklist for policy makers is available on the Cabinet Office website:(http:// www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/regulation/1999/checklist/intro.htm). The Listening to Women and People's Panel website can also provide information on the views of different client groups: (http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/womens-unit/1999/wu/index.htm and http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/servicefirst/index/pphome.htm).

  5.  The following list mentions some important issues to consider but is by no means exhaustive. Departments should think carefully about where such issues could apply to them; evidence of appropriate and proportionate analysis should be available for scrutiny, for example, by PSX and the Chief Secretary.

Sustainable development

  6.  The Government's strategy for sustainable development for the UK, A Better Quality of Life, was published in May 1999. It set out four objectives that underlie the Government's approach to sustainable development:

    —  social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;

    —  effective protection of the environment;

    —  prudent use of natural resources; and

    —  maintenance of high stable and levels of growth and employment.

  7.  All departments make some contribution to sustainable development and should think about how this can be enhanced in considering their review proposals, targets and investment strategies, particularly in terms of opportunities to meet more than one of these objectives simultaneously. The Environmental Audit Committee will be closely watching the outcome of the review in terms of both resource allocation and departments' aims, objectives and targets. Departments are reminded that in evaluating policy choices they should be guided by the Treasury document Appraisal and Evaluation in Central Government (revised 1997) and by DETR's publication Policy Appraisal and the Environment: Policy Guidance (1998).

  8.  Departments should be in a position to defend the outcome of the Spending Review as consistent with sustainable development, and overall the Government should be able to show that the resources announced in this Review will deliver real benefits across all three of the pillars of sustainable development: the environment, the economy and social progress.

  9.  In the light of Green Ministers' collective responsibility to promote the integration of sustainable development across Government, departments should involve their Green Ministers fully in the preparation and conduct of the Review. Further advice on sustainable development issues can be obtained from DETR's Sustainable Development Unit, who can also refer departments to sources of expertise on environmental considerations.

Equality

  10.  Departments should systematically consider how to capture the impact of their policies and services on women, ethnic minorities and disabled people. Guidance is contained in Policy Appraisal for Equal Treatment, published in November 1998 by the Cabinet Office (Womens Unit), Home Office and DfEE. Where specific targets or measures are set, departments may in some cases already have sufficient evidence of a problem to be able to set a target for improvement. In other cases the performance measurement process itself will establish the base data for future target setting. Either way, the nature of the performance measure should as far as possible allow separate assessment of the above client groups as compared with the general population.

Productivity

  11.  In looking at their objectives, programmes, and proposed targets departments should consider how they contribute to the Government's objective of improving the productivity and economic performance of the economy. Departments should consider what scope there is for them to do more to:

    —  raise invesment;

    —  encourage innovation and enterprise;

    —  improve skills;

    —  promote competition and better regulation;

    —  raise public sector productivity.

Employment and employability

  12.  One of the overarching aims of the Review is about providing the opportunity for everyone to fulfil their potential through employment. Programmes throughout Government influence employability and employment. All departments should consider how their objectives, programmes and proposed targets take their impact on employment and employability into account.

Child poverty

  13.  The Government is committed to abolishing child poverty within twenty years. The First Report on the Government's Strategy for Tackling Poverty and Social Exclusion, published in September, set out some indicators by which progress towards eradication will be measured.

  14.  All departments should take child poverty into account, identifying any possible conflicts of priorities between their proposed new PSA objectives and targets and the child poverty indicators in the "First Report" and how it would plan to resolve these. Specific guidance on taking child poverty into account in framing Review proposals is contained in paragraphs 22-24 of Section B of this guidance ("Output Based Analyses").

Modernising Government

  15.  The Modernising Government White paper set out five key commitments. Departments are covering these in their own Modernising Government Action Plans but will also want to consider how they can contribute to fulfilling these objectives across the public sector through this next spending round. The five commitments are:

    —  forward-looking policy making which delivers results that matter (the checklist referred to in paragraph 4 above provides further guidance on what this means);

    —  public services which are responsive to the needs of the citizen (including joined-up services and widening access);

    —  quality public services—looking for the best supplier and managing services effectively;

    —  information age management—making use of the opportunities to improve services and other activities using new technology, and taking this forward strategically;

    —  valuing public service—which in the civil service is taken up in plans for civil service reform though the principles are applicable across public services.

HM Treasury
November 1999


 
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