Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
MONDAY 17 DECEMBER 2001
20. Starting where the Chairman left off basically.
When I read the report it seemed a very good idea. Why has it
never been done before? Why has it had to take an initiative to
do this? Surely to goodness if we were to provide public services'
departments should have been working together for years, why have
(Mavis McDonald) I think there is not a kind of blank
sheet and then we started joint working. Programmes like the Single
Regeneration Budget were designed to bring different kinds of
objectives together in one programme to improve places. So there
are prior examples. I think it was a focus on issues that had
not really been addressed directly that led to much greater attention
being placed on joint working and the need to recreate some relationships
like relationships with local government and relationships with
the new bodies which have been set up like the RDAs in the regions
to bring different sets of partners together as policies rolled
out. I think it is probably fair to say too, as Sue Richards'
appendix to the report points outsorry I am probably being
too longone of the drivers to the kind of silo effect was
accountability, our search for value for money. Some of the issues
which are addressed in the report about accountabilities are about
finding ways of being accountable across departments, across programmes
and so on.
21. Yes. From what you are saying it is pretty
obvious that cross departmental co-operation has its benefits?
(Mavis McDonald) Yes.
22. Obviously. Why is it that for years the
right hand never seemed to know what the left hand was doing?
For example, the Inland Revenue had not got a clue what the minimum
wage agency or whatever it is called, whatever its official title
is, when they were making different decisions on the same cases.
The Inland Revenue was being taken to court. The minimum wagewhat
is it called?
(Mavis McDonald) Low Pay Agency?
23. No, they decided whether firms should have
a minimum wage or not, whether they qualified for a minimum wage.
I do not think it matters what it is called. The fact of the matter
was I had constituents who were getting views from the Inland
Revenue on the one hand and this organisation on the other hand,
they go to court. I wrote to the Inland Revenue on a number of
occasions giving opinions which seemed obvious to me and one department
ignores the other department. Is this going to stop now?
(Mavis McDonald) Hopefully, yes. The main thrust of
better policy making generally has been to avoid that kind of
palpable nonsense occurring on the ground by improved information
dissemination between departments and by working together as they
develop policies. I think that in both the Sure Start work and
the Rough Sleepers work, there was an analysis which showed what
happened if you did have those kinds of silo techniques.
24. We will be sitting here in a position over
the next four years just to see how many reports we get where
it has been successful or it has not been successful. Up to now
it has not been all that successful has it? I will come to that
in a minute or two if I have got time because I have gone down
a tack I did not want to go down. You actually obviously believe
there is a need for more partnerships. On page 38, paragraph 2.4
it says "Departments, however, need to take a wide view to
identify opportunities for joint working to improve service delivery."
It is clear now that the departments are going to be clearly looking
for where they can provide services better by joining together.
What is happening now to ensure that does happen? How do you decide
that a project might be better delivered if it is a joint approach
rather than a single approach?
(Mavis McDonald) I think one of the clear principles
which drives you to do that is to have a sharper focus on who
you are providing a service to and what their requirements are
rather than what the producers' requirements are. That is one
of the key principles which is being promoted through the Public
Service Reform and Delivery Programme. There are two planks, as
it were, of that. The Delivery Unit can promote best practice
by the more detailed work it is doing with particular departments
on delivery in the key 17 areas. The OPSR, the Office of Public
Service Reform is working with the departments on skill and capacity
and in whether they have the leadership skills to promote that
kind of joint working. In the PSA process, the spending review
process, for example, we now establish cross-cutting reviews as
a norm and the Treasury certainly see it as part of their oversight
of the PSA/PSX process to be looking for issues that look as if
they are falling between gaps. Increasingly departments are required
to say what impact their policy development is having on others.
All this too is still within the traditional framework of clearing
policies through Cabinet Committees across Whitehall before they
25. Page 40 talks about cost effectiveness and
the Chairman mentioned this. I notice in figure 15, for example,
we are given two examples of cost effectiveness, the rough sleeping
scheme, before the project began, cost an incredible £117,000
for reduction of one individual sleeping rough and now it is down
to £71,000. On the other hand, Childcare provision was £640
before the scheme began, it is now £650. On the one hand
we have a scheme which has made huge savings and on the other
hand we have a scheme which is costing more. How important is
cost effectiveness in terms of these schemes? Is that the main
theme or not? Is the cost effectiveness that important?
(Mavis McDonald) Louise may want to comment on the
rough sleeping figures but I think the report itself says that
effective joint working might have costs just because of the joint
working, but if the output is a much better one then it may be
well worth that extra cost. That might be the price of the partnership
but in relation to the service it may well be worthwhile. On something
like rough sleeping and some of the other programmes, the costs
came down because you were getting much better value for money
because people were working together and some of their costs were
reduced because you were helping alleviate some of the problems
of the individual departments by working together. Louise, do
you want to add anything to that?
(Ms Casey) These statistics were drawn together by
the NAO very helpfully. What this masks is, for example, the Ministry
of Defence from April the first next year will be themselves funding
the Prevention Projects which the Rough Sleepers Unit has funded,
so in other words this shows the kind of per capita if you start
off with 1,850 people and you are at 700 people, I think, when
this report was drawn together, that is the barometer for which
they have this reduction in terms of costs. Actually there are
many other things which the Government has been funding because
they are important and because we know that by investing in them
overall over time we will reduce the number of people who end
up homeless. So, for example, we fund a project in Catterick Garrison
in Yorkshire that is to help men in particular who are leaving
the armed forces who have been in the services for less than three
years. It helps them avoid homelessness in the first place. Only
time will tell, and we are doing our own independent evaluation
of that, whether that is value for money but we recognised that
we did not want ex-servicemen ending up on the streets or, indeed,
homeless. We invested in it and that is partly what you see.
26. Okay. Can you give us some more examples
now where departments are looking for more joint approaches? Can
you just give some more examples?
(Mavis McDonald) I mentioned the cross-cutting review
of the voluntary sector. I think other areas are childcare and
childcare provision, that is another one. I think the drug strategy
is being revisited with a view to ensuring that the drug programmes
are more tightly locked in to things like the neighbourhood renewal
programmes and other programmes. I think Naomi may have a comment
(Ms Eisenstadt) The two other major cross-cutting
reviews that we are involved in are health inequalities and children
at risk. To be successful, both of them require contribution from
several Government departments, particularly on health inequalities.
The main reason is health inequalities are not mainly to do with
the NHS and have a lot to do with housing and transport, for example.
The way the cross cutting review would work would be to pull those
departments together to address the issue.
27. Fine. If you turn to page 23, figure 11,
note three right down the bottom there, the final paragraph. It
tells us that by the end of August 2001 there are 250 projects
which have received £260 million for experimentation. Can
you just give us some examples of those?
(Mavis McDonald) There are quite a large variety but
some of them are, again, about partnership working in local communities
to achieve specific objectives. I can give you a lot of detailed
information about that if you want?
28. Perhaps you could let us know some of those.
(Mavis McDonald) Yes.
29. Are they proving to be successful as well?
(Mavis McDonald) Certainly the ones we have evaluated
have been, yes.
30. I am at a stage where I could mention, I
do not want to go down the track but I think I will, really partnerships
in the past have been pretty dismal, have they not? If you look
at figure 10, that springs to mind. These are some of the reports
this Committee has done over the last two or three years and these
were shared approaches, were they not? Frankly they were hopeless.
We have sat and had witnesses in front of us for most of these
schemes and frankly some of them were so bad they were unbelievable.
These were joint approaches, were they not? It does not always
work, does it?
(Mavis McDonald) Obviously you have examples where
it does not always work. We have to hope that we learn the lessons
from those that do not work and establish partnerships that do.
I think there is a lot of successful evidence of partnerships
which do work and the Policy Action Teams and Neighbourhood Renewal,
for example, found masses of case studies.
31. Why did these fail particularly? Was it
because of the joint approach or the joint approach was not done
properly or it should have been left to an individual organisation
to get on and do it? Why were they so bad, some of them? Let us
just have a look at some of them. For example, the system for
assessing and paying claims for incapacity and disability benefits,
that was appalling. The New Millennium Experience, we will not
bother to mention that one, it is still going on. If you look
down there, there are some really bad feelings, are there not,
with joint approach so is joint approach everything it is made
out to be?
(Mavis McDonald) The report itself suggests a number
of ways in which you can make it work properly by being, in particular,
very clear about what the joint partnership is for and what the
objectives are and what the outcomes are.
32. Now you are in charge will this not happen
(Mavis McDonald) I am not in charge of all the partnerships.
33. No, but you are responsible, are you not?
(Mavis McDonald) I think individual departments are
responsible for the partnerships under their own programmes. I
think what we have got are a lot more examples of things which
are working well which newer partnerships, like the Sure Start
programme, for example, are drawing on as they develop.
34. Do you know what worries me, Ms McDonald,
it is that the Civil Service has a culture, has it not? It has
had a culture for years. You have only got to look at some of
the responses that we get in letters when as Members of Parliaments
we write to Ministers. The Civil Service are a law unto themselves,
are they not? If they are, say, accused or affected in any way
they will make sure it does not work, will they not?
(Mavis McDonald) I really do not think there is much
evidence in the report to support that.
35. There is plenty of evidence in figure 10
which will support my view, is there not?
(Mavis McDonald) I think you will find there are a
lot of partners, not all of whom are civil servants, in some of
these examples. We are not saying we should not get better, but
we do accept the recommendations in the report in principle. A
lot of what has been happening over the last two or three years
in the Civil Service Reform Programme, for example, is trying
to open that up. I think you will find there are lots of civil
servants now who have wider experience.
36. That was a point I would like to make about
senior civil servants' experience. I sit now in the Chamber and
look at the little box and see civil servants in the little boxes
and they are about 22 or 23 years old. They have no experience
of life at all. It seems incredible. How many senior civil servants
come directly from university? How many from industry? How many
from commerce? Do you know these figures?
(Mavis McDonald) Not off the top of my head.
37. It would be interesting to know.
(Mavis McDonald) What I do know is that there is a
significant programme of interchange. Something like over 4,000
people have come into the senior Civil Service or civil servants
have gone out to get broader experience. Most of us would expect
to be used to working in partnership with other people. For example,
I chaired the Policy Action Team on Low Demand for Housing. I
have got experience, also, as a non executive director in the
private sector. Sorry, I should not personalise but just to give
you an example.
38. No, that is fine.
(Mavis McDonald) I am a governor of a university college
in London. I am a member of a housing association board. We have
different ways of broadening our own experience. We would expect
people to build up that kind of portfolio. My colleagues on my
left, both of whom are not from the traditional Civil Service
background, bring a lot of their broader experience and they pass
that on to the teams they are working with.
Mr Steinberg: That is great. I am delighted
to hear that.
Chairman: They are still very young looking.
(Mavis McDonald) Good.
(Ms Eisenstadt) Thank you.
Mr Steinberg: I think the only way this is going
to fail is if the Civil Service do not want it to work. It should
be interesting in the next two or three years to see exactly what
39. Miss Casey, do you accept that your street
count numbers are discredited?
(Ms Casey) No, I do not.
1 Ev, Appendix 1, p 21. Back
Note by witness: 202 people were appointed to the SCS
between 1 April 2000 and 1 April 2001. Of these 77 (38.1%) were
civil servants, 98 (48.5%) were from the wider public sector and
27 (13.4%) from the private sector. The figures are taken from
the Civil Service Commissioners Annual Report 2000-2001, and are
not broken down any further. Back