Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
MONDAY 17 DECEMBER 2001
120. I understand that. That is a very generous
view of human nature. It has quite often been my experience that
there will be a number of people involved in a partnership who
do not want to be there and their organisation does not want to
be there either, they are only there because the partnership is
the one that has got the money.
(Ms Eisenstadt) Yes.
121. I am not quite clear in a sense whether
or not there are any lessons that we can learn from that situation
to avoid it occurring. Is there anything that has not been picked
up in the report already? It seemed to me that was a major difficulty
in the report.
(Ms Eisenstadt) The interesting thing is the only
way to avoid that is about joint accountability, from the very
top, this is why the top to the bottom is very important. The
most important joined up is at the point of delivery, nothing
else matters, it is for the end user. It is for the end user,
if there are multiple issues and they need somebody that is going
to help them lead through multiple agencies. They do not want
lots of agencies, they want one that can do lots of things for
them. The only way you can get one person at the point of delivery
that can do lots of things for them is for the managers of those
services to invest something in that one across the range of professionals.
The only way that happens from the central government right through
to the end deliverer is for ministers to say I want this to happen.
If ministers do not say they want this to happen it is unlikely
it is going to happen. My experience on the ground is that the
good provider will always work in a joined up way. It is their
manager who will sometimes support it and sometimes will not.
122. I understand in terms of ministers taking
a view, clearly sometimes you have been dealing with local authorities
who do not necessarily see themselves being beholden to ministers
and in many cases will take the view that these are projects which
come along with chunks of money they thought they should have
and there is bound to be a degree of resentment, smart people
coming from the outside and poaching. They feel they have been
struggling for years and you are coming into take these things
forward. I am not quite clear how best you have dealt with that.
(Ms Eisenstadt) We are dealing with that in a couple
of ways, that is the problem, there is sometimes resentment on
the part of local government and on the part of the health service.
There is also resentment in terms of poaching staff. There are
real problems in terms of the public sector work force, people
want to do our jobs. The way we are trying to get round that is
a particular piece of work we are involved in right now, which
is piloting mainstream, giving to local authorities small amounts
of money to say, what would you do in your city to make Sure Start
work everywhere and to join it up? You should not need the amount
of money that a single Sure Start programme has. We are doing
some pilot work on trying to bring in mainstream providers, there
is no point of this unless we change the practice of mainstream
providers, because poor children do not only live in these patches.
123. The easy bit is putting new money into
new projects. The difficult bit is the issue of mainstream providers.
I do not think this gives me much evidence you have cracked it
(Ms Eisenstadt) We have not cracked it yet, we are
working on it.
124. This is the easy part because I am Mr Nice
Guy. I do not believe that we are looking at a concept, because
a concept has been taken and developed into a policy. It has been
implemented and we have to examine the implementation and we have
to learn from this examination and see how we can improve that.
That is one of the things I always struggle with, because in a
previous life when the inspectors came in they would go through
a department, come back with a report, look at the report and
think, yes, I agree with that, 80 per cent I knew before we started
but there are certain parts I did not know and there are other
parts I really thought seriously about. This is a fresh pair of
eyes, they have come in here, they have looked at it and I am
now going to readjust my priorities. What in this report made
you adjust your priorities? Was there a point you thought, yes,
we need to put more emphasis on a particular section? Which was
(Mavis McDonald) My own personal response to that
is that I thought that the NAO started to get into some interesting
issues about the interaction between accountability and the delivery
of objectives and the extent to which actually the accountability
arrangements might help or hinder that. We were talking amongst
ourselves before we came and we thought some of that would be
quite helpful because there are occasions where some very sharp
accountability actually can focus minds very hard. There are other
kinds of programmes, this is one not mentioned in the Report,
like the New Deal for Communities for example where the money
is predicated on the local communities working up a plan. In that
case it is a single line of accountability. Experience suggests
that they found it quite difficult to get going, maybe thinking
about it there was not enough clarity about exactly what the outputs
were. I think it got better over time. I think in that area, as
I said earlier, I do not think we have crossed some of the issues
and sorted them out in our own minds about accountability arrangements
in relation to some of these varied ways of working.
125. Can I ask each of your colleagues, what
did you get from the Report?
(Ms Eisenstadt) What I thought was most challenging
for us was the comment in the Report about how complex our accountability
arrangements are. I accept that. I think our problem with that
is that if you allow a lot of diversity at ground level it makes
your accountability more complicated. If we had standardised inputs
then the accountability is easier. We fought against standardised
inputs because we did not think all communities need the same
thing. Because we wanted to free it up at ground level it makes
the accountability more complex. That to me is a really important
126. You have that accountability cracked, you
really feel you can answer for it?
(Ms Eisenstadt) I feel I can answer for it, but I
do not feel we have it cracked.
127. I think you have to, because one day you
might be in here answering for it.
(Ms Casey) Reading it as a whole for me it is the
question about delivery. You get buy-in from people when you are
analysing what a problem is, you get buy-in from people, as your
colleague said, when you are setting up a new unit. You get buy-in
from people when you want to make the world a better place. It
is a question of whether you get buy-in from people when you are
delivering, and some of the tensions around that, which I felt
the NAO very carefully drew out actually.
(Ms Hogbin) Having clear objectives for the business
link network is the thing we took from this and the need to act
quickly when we see things going off the rails. That was one of
the points that was made here. We need to have very clear ideas
of what we are trying to achieve and measure progress against
(Mr Mitchell) The important message for the Treasury
is about having really good measures of effectiveness when have
you complicated joined-up structures.
128. What is your priority with regard to joined-up
working? Is to improve the delivery of service themselves or merely
to cut costs by the value-for-money exercise?
(Mavis McDonald) I think it has to be the former,
if you can achieve the latter as well, which you should be looking
to do anyway, then you should try and achieve that. The prime
focus has to be the objective you are seeking to achieve.
129. Do you all feel the same way?
(Ms Eisenstadt) The key objective is better outcomes
for children for us, we believe that in the long-term that does
130. That is the answer I would expect, I would
not expect any other answer to be honest. We will find out the
outcome in later years if we do get that quality of service. One
of the things that worries us, you can go back to Figure 1.7 on
page 20. On defining the actual goals we have two brilliant examples,
one cost us one heck of a lot of money, when the Department and
Post Office Counters basically could not agree what they wanted
as an outcome. When you have this type of example in front of
you, the next one is the British Libraries, what measures have
you got, what powers do you have, what methods of persuasion do
you have to ensure this does not continually reoccur in government?
(Mavis McDonald) I think the prime tool we have now
is the Office of Government Commerce and their development of
the gateway management approach to a project, where they have
started with IT projects, and rolled them out, it is getting an
independent assessment done of the risk of achieving what you
need to achieve to get to the desired end result at various points
in the project, either from the beginning or stock taking and
going through and trying on the back of that to build up much
better project management skills at two levels, one the intelligent
customer amongst the more senior people in the departments and,
secondly, a stronger power of people that have experience and
know how to manage programme themselves.
131. How confident are you, 90 per cent, 95
per cent or 100 per cent that this system is going to be implemented
(Mavis McDonald) I am confident that it is going to
be implemented. There is work currently in hand identifying the
most significant projects and how they are going to be assessed
and taken forward, what help departments might need to ensure
that they stay on track, which Peter Gershon from the Office of
Government Commerce is working on with a number of us who are
part of a central group who meet on delivery of these services.
132. You feel that departments have a sufficient
range of indicators to assess performance of these joint working
(Mavis McDonald) I think this is quite tricky. If
you look at something like neighbourhood renewal, which is one
of the bigger reports of the Social Exclusion Unit, the whole
range of activities that are encompassed in developing neighbourhood
renewal does involve mainstreaming of departments' approaches
to deprived neighbourhoods as well as having specific programmes.
That is quite a big task, pulling that kind of endeavour together.
That is why it has got quite a lot of machinery around it. I think
we are learning as we go along. That is pulling together a wide
range of players at all levels, national, regional, local and
neighbourhood level, and keeping the kind of top down integration
while you are trying to get a better end result on the ground
for everybody which is horizontal is quite a complex set of matrix
management issues, not all of which we have handled on quite that
133. I have got to be careful now because I
do not want to lose my reputation of being Mr Nice Guy. Are you
now fully confident that the mechanisms are in place, that we
have got this method of working across Government and we are going
to extend this into more joint working arrangements, and if so
what are the incentives to bring departments into these joint
(Mavis McDonald) I did not wish to infer that I was
fully confident that everything is perfect in terms of everybody
being fully aware. The world changes around us all the time, new
issues arise, new thinking needs to be developed, like Sue Richards'
points about IT and service delivery. A whole raft of issues that
are emerging there that may change our thinking about the way
we work together. I do think that the key tool is the one I keep
coming back to, the one about improving Public Service Agreements,
the underpinning SDAs, the way in which they are articulated,
they are measured and monitored by the Treasury and the Cabinet
Office who work together at ministerial level on this. That is
the system that has got the broadest spread across everybody.
If you add to that the way in which cross-cutting issues are now
being picked up regularly in the spending reviews and rolled forward,
there is not just a spending review and it stops, the process
actually checks what happens, what has gone wrong, then that framework
needs to be as solid and stable as the underpinning to give you
that assurance that you are unpicking things.
134. Yes, and that is the problem, is it not?
(Mavis McDonald) That is the main tool. Then there
are lots of other different ways in which you can add to that
at either ministerial committee level or at task force level.
I feel strongly myself that the regional offices, now they cover
a much wider range, have a bigger role to play in feeding back
to Whitehall what the total impact of policies on the ground can
135. It is that rigour that is lacking in Whitehall,
is it not?
(Mavis McDonald) I think we are developing it much
more closely. I think the whole thrust of the Prime Minister's
focus on delivery is about getting that down through
136. But in the longer term we are dead, that
is the problem, because it is the speed at which it is rolled
out, how much rigour you have got there and how much feedback
is brought back in as quickly as possible to ensure we are on
the right track. I do not want to go down this track and then
five years later find out that we have got the wrong map or we
are going in the wrong direction. I would like to feel that the
people around it have got the confidence to say "we are right,
we are achieving targets, and this is how we can prove we are
achieving our targets".
(Mavis McDonald) I do not totally agree with you,
if I may say so.
137. By all means. I do not want to lose my
(Mavis McDonald) You can have programmes where it
is quite clear that it is going to be a long timescale before
you can actually see whether you would really significantly change
something, like Naomi's programme or like changing transport systems.
The Government might have ten year plans but it would be wrong
if it was not evaluating as it went along what worked and what
did not work to deliver those objectives and taking stock. That
is partly what improved risk management or programme management
is about. That is an area that we touched on last time I was in
front of the Committee and which, again, is part of our attempt
to improve the way in which we make policy and then we think about
implementation and we monitor implementation of policy.
138. One of the things which I always find amazing
about voluntary groups is if you have got to go into the local
delivery pattern and you are working not just with agencies or
local government but also these voluntary groups, who get nothing
from the state, raise their own money, were set up many years
ago, they have got their own little organisation, they come in.
Is it a model? Is there a best way to approach it? Have we developed
(Mavis McDonald) Can I ask my colleagues to give you
some examples from the ground?
139. Not just an example, a methodology. Is
there a way to get it done?
(Ms Eisenstadt) There is, but many of the organisations
actually do get money from local government and even get money
from Central Government. There are thousands of organisations
that get no money at all and they tend to be self-help groups
and they tend to be very much about pressure groups and about
how things are done and not delivering themselves. The important
thing is engaging the very tiny local right through to the big
nationals. That is what you need to do for the distinctive things
that they bring because the assumption is the voluntary sector
is a single thing and of course it is not. The big nationals can
be as bureaucratic as we can be and very tiny ones are very hard
to get hold of and you need to do a lot of very detailed local
work to get them involved. That is particularly important in terms
of faith groups.