Examination of Witness (Questions 1180
WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001
1180. The Chairman certainly pushed you in the
sense of capacity building at local level, the sense that Government
was not working properly at local level, those sorts of issues,
but, of course, there is a distinction between local people and
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Local authorities?
1181. Local authorities. A distinction between
community and voluntary organisations. Some can be very large
and some are, indeed, charged with delivering Government initiatives
at local authorities. I wonder how far your examination has got
in that to that degree?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) One aspect of what the
Government Offices have got to do, which is very much absorbed
in Government policy in relation to deprived areas, is ensuring
that there is proper partnership working in individual areas,
and in particular the setting up of Local Strategic Partnerships
to try to identify for a particular area the strategic direction
of the use of money, the provision of services. That Local Strategic
Partnership has got to exist whether the local authority is good
or whether it is bad. The critical thing, it seems to me, is that
Central Government has got to use what power it has got to get
all the players working effectively together.
1182. Where perhaps Central Government has received
some criticism, if you like, of all these initiatives, is that
it may of course be that ordinary people on the ground are not
seeing the delivery of these initiatives because actually there
is this other layer after Central Government that is charged with
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The "other layer"
meaning local government?
1183. Local government.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Some of them are local
government but quite a lot of them are not. Sure Start, Connexions,
those sorts of area based initiatives do not involve local authorities.
Local authorities have got some part to play but it does not depend
upon the local authority, the delivery of those initiatives. Education
is a different one obviously.
1184. Yes. Certainly in my area, Sure Start
is delivered by the local authority and New Deal for Communities
is delivered by the local authority. I am not suggesting that
my area has a failing local authority but I am looking at the
London context and you will appreciate that I was an Assembly
Member for London previously. There is some talk about capacity
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.
1185. Do you think that the pressure on Government
to deliver and to be seen to deliver means that sometimes we do
not actually think about the capacity building over a long stretch
of time, we want it to happen tomorrow?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We certainly feel, particularly
having regard to the work of the Social Exclusion Unit and just
seeing what is before you with your own eyes, if you do not spend
time on capacity building and spend money on trying to build capacity
then you are not going to get long-term results. You do definitely
need to build capacity in communities.
1186. How do you think you build that capacity?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think you have got to
do it by first of all ensuring that the people who are making
decisions for the community have a wider experience of problems.
Secondly, trying to get interchange between the policy makers
at local level and the policy makers at Central Government level.
Thirdly, trying to provide advice to people as to what they can
and cannot do, both in relation to their community and with any
funds that come. It is a whole range of things, there is no one
answer I do not think. It has got to be focused on as a critical
1187. Do you think in relation to poor people
in totally deprived constituenciesand my constituency is
one of the few constituencies in the country that is totally deprived,
every single ward is deprived, not pockets of deprivationthat
there is a tendency for Government at all levels to be over-paternalistic
and actually to find it problematic, particularly where schools
have been failing consistently over a decade or two, to easily
consult the people and ask them what they want?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Are you saying that they
ask too much?
No. When we talk about the initiatives that
we have got
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Things like Sure Start,
1189. These things are aimed at the socially
excluded and, by definition, the socially excluded are excluded.
Many of the people charged with delivering these things are over-paternalistic
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If you are saying it is
just the usual professionals who turn up, consult, and then make
the decisions, I think there is much too much of that. You really
need to get people from the communities you are trying to reach
engaged over a long period of time in the process of determining
what happens to the community. You have much more experience of
this than I. That is very, very difficult to achieve over a sustained
period of time because, as it were, the usual suspects on the
partnerships tend to be professionals, not necessarily lawyers,
social workers, but people engaged on a full-time basis in that
sort of thing. You need to think of processes whereby you do properly
engage the actual members of the community you are trying to reach,
which is difficult.
1190. When you have got a totally deprived area
these people do not live anywhere near it usually.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Not always. From time
to time in quite a lot of communities you will meet people who,
through volunteering, through getting involved in some community
project, do genuinely speak from and within the deprived community.
1191. That is the issue of capacity because
obviously there is also an issue of capacity in the voluntary
sector in the community sector.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, but that is something
we recognise that money needs to be spent on because without it
you get what I think you are getting at, which is that the usual
suspects always talk on behalf of the community in deciding what
is best for them. I agree with your analysis.
1192. How much interaction are you having with
deprived communities? How often are you in deprived communities?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Me personally?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I go around as much as
I can. Once a week I will go to some region. I will not necessarily
always go to a deprived region but I will go to a Government Office
and go with them to somewhere which is dealing with the work that
they are doing.
1194. Just one final question. Do you think
that the Government has done enough so that ordinary people on
the doorstep, Joe Bloggs or Joe Blow, whatever you call him, knows
what the Children's Fund is, knows what Sure Start is?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I would have thought if
you ask Joe Blow or Joe Bloggs what the Children's Fund is they
would not have the foggiest idea, the vast majority of them at
the moment. That is more about people not being interested. The
Children's Fund is a fund that has not been going for very long.
It is about the extent to which people are interested in politics
and policy announcements. Are people interested in that?
1195. I think that poor people are interested
in money and a lot of these initiatives are about money in that
sense, money for their communities, so they are interested. We
perhaps need to do more to get that to them but I am not sure
that it is Central Government that is necessarily responsible
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Right. Okay.
Mr Lammy: Maybe local government.
1196. We need to end very shortly because we
have got a second half coming up. Perhaps if I ask quick questions
you could give quick answers. Just picking up on David's last
point, the question I want to ask arising out of that is: does
it matter that the way in which Government programmes are being
delivered in areas now are so complex that nobody has a clue who
runs anything any more? If people do not have a clue who runs
anything any more, does that not by itself have a damaging and
demoralising effect on the civic process?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think the two things
you said are separate. Complexity of programme itself does not
particularly matter if you do have an understanding of who is
responsible for whatever the fund of money is, whatever the particular
delivery is. I do not think one should focus too much on whether
the internals of a programme are complex. The more important thing
is: is there a sense that there is somebody who is responsible
for making life better, providing better education, ensuring that
children under five get a fair deal?
1197. And the fact that people do not know who
these people are, who is responsible for them, where the money
is coming from, what they can do about that, makes it a very impenetrable
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think it matters a lot
because I think the more people do not know about those things,
the more they become alienated from all political process.
1198. That was what I was suggesting. When the
Committee went to the North Eastand again it is borne out
by the PIU Reportwe heard endless stories of some of the
problems. We heard a senior policeman saying memorably to us "we
have now got more PIUs than PCs" and we heard someone telling
us how typically on programmes, on a three year programme, the
first year was spent trying to set them up, the second year trying
to do something half useful and the third year planning an exit
strategy. In departments now we have people called consumer champions.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.
1199. Should we not have bureaucracy busters?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think your question
was about bureaucracy necessarily. Sir Michael Bichard and Sir
Richard Mottram gave evidence to you referring to the fact that
sometimes it is good to be prescriptive. They referred to the
literacy and numeracy hour in schools. That was something where
teachers had to do something and I bet you many of them complained
about it but people broadly perceive that it works. There is a
good example of prescribing something which works. There are lots
and lots of other cases where the prescription does not work but
one is talking about the generality, how can one define what is
the right side of the line.