Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600 - 619)



Patrick Mercer

  600. Taking it on from James Cran's point, we have just been walloped with the most enormous Council Tax bills in Nottinghamshire. What thinking is there about the funding and the effect of taking on extra duties?
  (Mr Shuttleworth) The funding of the extra duties in the review?

  601. Yes.
  (Mr Shuttleworth) We, as a Local Government Association, have certainly put in our bid for additional resources to carry out new work as a result of all these emergencies that have happened over the last two years and the review and we have certainly put that into the Comprehensive Spending Review. That statement has been made. If you want the figures for that, we have asked for an additional £26.76 million revenue and £17.08 million capital for local authorities in England only. There was a suggestion in the revenue that the responsibility for Wales may go to the Assembly so we did not actually cost that out. That is our bid for additional resources.

  602. Thank you for that. Moving on, the buzz word "resilience" has come up a number of times and I see that Chris Leslie gave particular priority to the concept of resilience. What do you understand by it? Having defined it, how would you measure it?
  (Mr Griffin) I think that is an interesting question.

  603. Good.
  (Mr Griffin) I am in danger of being accused of giving a politician's answer because I do not think that is the right question. I think I would like to answer what I think is the right question. I know you will come back. Simply to ask what we mean by resilience, the resilience is obviously the ability of an organisation to respond effectively to abnormal demands and stretch its response to meet abnormal demands without the organisation collapsing or being overwhelmed. So resilience is to do with capacity. I could stop there and say I have answered your question but I do not really think I have. What I would like to address is what are the implications of resilience. I think you are right, it has become something of a buzz word. I think there is a recognition nationally and locally that events do happen and perhaps we live in a riskier world and that we ought to be addressing how resilient we are. So what are the implications of that? Generally, over the last few years, we have endeavoured to become not only as effective as we can but as efficient as we can and to be as lean as we can. I think there is a point where leanness, that level of efficiency and resilience are mutually incompatible. One looks at that in the context of, for example, our own resilience in terms of business continuity planning. Effective business continuity planning requires a degree of redundancy otherwise you will not be able to cope with something which happens to the organisation as a whole. I think if we are going to make our civil communities more resilient we have to accept a degree of that kind of redundancy recognising that we are not necessarily going to be as "efficient" as we might be in order that we can be more resilient in dealing with the events which might happen.

  604. I think that is a fair answer to the question.
  (Mr Griffin) Thank you.

  605. The question has to be asked. It is interesting, you have focused right down into the emergency planning side in particular in terms of potential terrorist events. We have seen the disappearance of the whole infrastructure of early warning systems and the like. It would strike me that level of resilience has now disappeared completely. Therefore, going on to what I have asked already, can we measure it? Can we measure resilience?
  (Mr Griffin) I think measuring resilience is very difficult.

  606. Yes.
  (Mr Griffin) I am not sure I can add to that sentence. I think it is very difficult. I think what one needs to be doing is asking civil governments to pay heed to the fact that there are risks. He has gone but a little bit to Mr Cran's question about hazards. We need to recognise that there are risks which we might need to face and ask whether organisations are capable of making a reasonable response to those and to recognise that in order to make a reasonable response to a reasonably foreseeable risk one may need structures and capacity and resources which go beyond those which are needed for a job.

  607. Thank you.
  (Cllr Phillips) Could I just add, in the terms of your saying that Nottinghamshire and your swingeing increase, my Chairman, Jane Chervis, wrote to Christopher Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office on 4 March when we found ourselves in the position that we believed that there should be no loss in grant in any authority, and some are losing up to 15 per cent, in the coming year. We had previously agreed a dampener of 10 per cent using the last transitional year. "It should be borne in mind that bids for 2001-02, which were needs based, were for a total of £21.5 million (subsequently negotiated down . . . "by the Ministers" . . . to £18,968 million by your officials using strict civil defence criteria). This total set out what local authorities required based upon assessed needs for their own areas. Further, it should be further noted that little account was taken in these bids for additional work required as a result of the widespread flooding and no account will have been taken of the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak or the considerable additional burdens arising as a result of 11 September". Now she said "This leads me to comments in your letter of which we take great exception. We are very concerned that you should imply that some authorities acted irresponsibly last year in claiming increases of their allocations for the previous year. We would be happy to receive details of the alleged financial irresponsibility." So with the Cabinet Office there is in actual fact a situation that our grants have been reduced in a number of authorities but we still have to find that money to meet those needs which were absolutely minimum. They were not additional allocations, we have been cut by three million during that period.

  608. I think you will find this argument has been raging up and down the constituencies.
  (Cllr Phillips) Yes, it has, you are quite right.


  609. Did she have a reply to the letter?
  (Cllr Phillips) We have not had it yet, no.

  610. Perhaps you will send a copy of the letter and that reply. I would like a look.
  (Cllr Phillips) It is early days.

Patrick Mercer

  611. Moving on if we may to the role of the armed forces in the planning process. There is no explicit reference to the role of the armed forces in the consultation document and the consultation process. We have heard from the Ministry of Defence that actually they are relatively content with this in as much as they were consulted on the draft of the document. Therefore, they were content also that they did not themselves take part in the public consultation process. What do you think, is that right? Should the role of the armed forces have been part of the consultation process?
  (Mr Shuttleworth) I think the role of all possible responding agencies should be part of the review process. They should be able to respond. From our point of view they are a very important resource and must be involved wherever possible in that process. We know it is difficult if we go on to partnership and talk about the statutory partnership of the military. It is a bit difficult because you do not know who will be there when the emergency happens and the other commitments. We do have excellent liaison with the military at local level, I have to say. In our area the RAF and the army liaison officer do keep us informed of whether they are able to respond at the time. You cannot write them into a plan because you do not know if they are going to be there. They should be part of the review.

  612. You have answered my next question whether they should be included as a statutory local partner. The answer is yes but it is very difficult to predict what their availability is going to be.
  (Mr Shuttleworth) It is. Our experience of using them in emergencies is they are very professional and they are able to deliver. We have been very grateful for them on occasions, particularly in recent flooding events it has been very, very useful.

  613. Do you consider the forces a local, regional or national resource?
  (Cllr Phillips) I would say both.

  614. At what level should they be consulted?
  (Mr Shuttleworth) Each local authority has got a liaison officer appointed. Now whether they are local would depend on the location of those resources, I think. In our own area we do not have any permanent military bases so our liaison officers are from Lincolnshire or Nottinghamshire. We do link with those on a local basis but we also link with some of our regional meetings with our colleagues when we are looking at cross-border situations. We are coming to them at those levels. I think the need is at local level.

  615. I can see that it is difficult to try and lay a template, if you like, of local authority areas with local armed forces, not just because of the disparate nature of forces because some are not always deployed in this country, I do understand the difficulties of that, but you can assure me that the liaison process works well and is proactive?
  (Cllr Phillips) In my area it certainly is. We are holding a joint exercise with the brigade concerned in the next two or three months, which is the very good nature of co-operation.

  616. That is Wiltshire?
  (Cllr Phillips) Yes.

  617. So one would expect that.
  (Cllr Phillips) Over in the next county we probably have not got any soldiers left there at the present moment.

  618. Thank you. The introduction to the Public Discussion Paper, The Strategic Defence Review: a New Chapter, and I will quote from Mr Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, states "Mr Hoon wants the widest possible audience to understand how our thinking is evolving, and to have the opportunity to express opinions in time to influence the work and the final conclusions." The deadline for submissions was 15 March. What involvement have you had with the MoD's work on a new chapter for The Strategic Defence Review?
  (Cllr Phillips) I have not.
  (Mr Shuttleworth) I have not.

  Patrick Mercer: None of you at all.

  Chairman: We should move on. I hope we get the same concise questions and answers for the rest of the morning but I doubt it.

Rachel Squire

  619. Can I come back to some of the comments made by Mr Griffin and Cllr Phillips about the role of central government. Just what role do you think central government should be playing? You commented that you think it should be legislating, is that really defining what local authorities should be doing, what agencies should be doing, and then to stand back and allow you to get on with it? Should it increase your funding? That seems to be a clear call.
  (Cllr Phillips) That is a good point.

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