Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
MR D GREEN,
DR R BAKER
40. Why is it difficult?
(Mr Green) Because as soon as you announce the fact
that you are thinking about closing a particular country then
it creates all sorts of uncertainty and insecurity and also a
lot of adverse publicity.
41. They might get onto Members of Parliament
might they not?
(Mr Green) Limited consultation in terms of the overall
configuration of the geographical priorities, but extensive consultation
where that has been possible in development of our sector programmes.
The other thing we have looked at is what we should be doing in
the arts, in governance, in science and very extensive consultation
in those areas.
42. Have you estimated the costs of retraining
your existing staff to redeploy them to these vacancies, the cost
in both time and resources?
(Mr Fotheringham) I do not have that separate figure.
We are looking at transition costs in terms of our human resources.
This would include redundancy payments, contribution to pension
schemes, it would include counselling and outplacement. We are
looking at a total figure over the five years of £18.6 million.
43. You have not divided it up between those
(Mr Fotheringham) I do not have that figure with me
44. But you could provide us with a rough breakdown.
(Mr Fotheringham) Yes. As you can imagine at this
stage it is a fairly rough estimate.
45. I understand that.
(Mr Fotheringham) A point which is worth making about
the strategy is that it is not a blueprint and it may yet be that
things will change. At this point, this is what we estimate the
costs, at that scale of change in our staff profile which is a
global figure. We are looking at 20 per cent of our staff globally,
it is not a UK number; it was 20 per cent.
46. Twenty per cent of your staff are going
to be made redundant.
(Mr Green) Yes, this was our estimate of the number
of staff who would be affected by the changes.
47. When you say "affected" by the
changes, do you mean made redundant.
(Mr Fotheringham) Yes.
48. So there will be others who will be moved.
(Mr Fotheringham) There will be others, probably another
20 per cent will be retrained and that is an important part of
the programme. We have a commitment to spend three per cent of
our budget on staff development and training and that is part
of our human resources strategy for the period.
49. It would be quite helpful if we could have
that breakdown subsequent to this meeting.
(Mr Fotheringham) Yes.
50. You said you have offices in the UK at the
moment in London and in Manchester. Is the Council actually responding
to devolution within the UK since both of those are actually in
England? What relationship have you established with the devolved
executives in Scotland and Wales?
(Mr Green) In addition we have offices in Edinburgh,
in Cardiff and in Belfast and have had for many years. We have
done a great deal in relation to devolution and because we were
there already we were able to keep ahead of the game. We have
built up very strong partnerships with arts organisations such
as the Scottish Arts Council, the Arts Council of Wales and we
have built partnerships with those bodies, also with Scottish
Trade International and with those bodies involved in education.
We take very seriously the business of making our staff aware
of issues related to devolution and they have access to ready
and up-to-date information on issues relating to devolution, not
least because there is tremendous interest in it around the world.
51. May I just clarify to make sure I got the
figures right? Twenty per cent of your staff are actually going
to be made redundant and another twenty per cent are going to
be redeployed through retraining. Is that right?
(Mr Fotheringham) Correct.
52. So the impact of this structural change
as a whole is on 40 per cent of the staff of the Council.
(Mr Fotheringham) I anticipate we may also need to
recruit a number of staff with different skills from those we
have now. The total staff profile will change as we bring in people
who have skills in marketing, in public relations, in other areas
of work where we currently do not have those skills.
53. That does sound quite a substantial upheaval
in every sense.
(Mr Fotheringham) It is a very substantial change.
(Mr Green) We must not underestimate that. Clearly
a number of those relate to the closures of countries and closures
54. We have already dwelt for quite a while
on some of the geographical priorities. I know my colleagues will
want to chase one or two of those. May I just chase the African
one further? We have taken quite a lot of evidence from you on
it. I understood, and this Committee has received evidence before
on the collapse of the DFID programmes and the contracts you had
which really left rather a big hole in your budget on the African
scene, did they not? DFID went for a strategy for the poorest;
they redefined their strategy. Why did The British Council not
go with that strategy? Why are you in a sense turning your backs
on the poor of Africa in that sense? You told me you were going
for opinion formers and the top-notchers. I understand that. But
if DFID went to the poorest, why did you not go with them and
see your role as helping the poorest as well?
(Mr Green) I do not want to give the impression that
we are ignoring the poorest, and our services would be open to
anybody. In terms of where we think we can add the greatest value
to the efforts of DFID, to the efforts of the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, it is by targeting younger professional people who are
likely to become the next generation of leaders and people in
positions of influence. We think that by encouraging them to look
at issues to do with governance and democratisation and through
connecting them with people in the UK, we can make a particular
contribution through cultural relations. That is very much our
55. When you have these DFID projects you and
DFID went into villages; The British Council was taken with DFID
into the countryside, into communities, which would otherwise
never see British Council in action. That is what is lost as a
result of DFID's change and your focusing on the opinion formers.
(Mr Green) Where we were doing that was through a
funded ODA, as it was then, project. I have seen many of them
in my life in Kenya and all over Africa where we were working
in villages, but they were education projects funded by DFID,
working with the Ministry of Education in those countries and
we were the managing agents for DFID. We were not doing that through
56. No, but DFID have not cut their budgets,
they have gone and reorientated their budgets to the poorest.
Why have you not been detaching British Council work to the new
strategy and the new poverty strategy orientated DFID programmes?
(Mr Green) Because the decision DFID has made is to
work directly with those ministries rather than through an intermediary
agency. Therefore we have in effect not got the option of doing
that. We should very much like to do that and to work very much
in support of them, but they have taken the view that actually
it is going to be more effective in the long term to work directly
with those ministries.
(Mr Fotheringham) I was mentioning too the transfer
of our grant-in-aid from DFID to the FCO. Our objectives relate
to those of the FCO, so if we look at our purpose statement, which
is to enhance the UK's reputation as a valued partner, that leads
us principally to work with the decision makers and opinion formers.
Mr Rowlands: You have also moved from west to
east. The British Council has moved from west to east in European
57. You said your priorities were like the FCO's
and your grant-in-aid. How does that work? Do you relate to a
particular Minister? Do you have face-to-face meetings with Ministers
about these priorities or was it done at administrative level,
(Mr Green) The Minister with responsibility for The
British Council within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is
Baroness Scotland, but we have other Ministers.
58. I know who is responsible but how often
do you meet her or when is the interface? Is there a big discussion
about priorities in the world at ministerial level?
(Mr Green) There are several interfaces. Certainly
I would meet with Baroness Scotland probably every six months.
59. With your Chairman?
(Mr Green) Yes, I have met with Baroness Kennedy and