Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
QC, MIKE GAHAGAN,
100. How many staff has it? (Lord Falconer
of Thoroton) 120.
101. Are there specific staff dedicated to specific
areas? We have heard of the Thames Gateway team. If there are,
why particularly that area? (Ms Bridges) We have one
team dedicated to the Thames Gateway, the Thames Gateway Strategic
Partnership, which is a small team of eight people. Apart from
the head of the unit, it is mainly staffed by secondees from participating
local authorities. That reflects the long term government commitment
to the future of the Thames Gateway as an important part of regional
planning policy and regional economic development for London and
the south east. The Thames Gateway is an important resource in
dealing with growth in the area and accommodation of future housing.
102. Those of us who represent other areas might
question why there are not dedicated units for those other areas. (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) The purpose of the Policy Unit is to
drive the headline areas identified in the Urban White Paper.
All urban areas will benefit from better use of land, better places
for buildings, better quality of life in towns and cities.
103. I do not think you have quite answered
my question. Can I turn to public spaces and walking? What do
you expect the outcome of the review of the management and maintenance
of public spaces for the comprehensive spending review to be?
Do you think it is likely to recommend additional resources to
be spend on public spaces? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
The public spaces cross cutting review is trying to identify policy
that will improve the quality of public spaces. It will address
the issue of whether or not additional resources are required.
It will then inform the comprehensive spending review that will
decide in 2002 what the right conclusions are.
104. It will address it but you are not sure
what it is going to recommend? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
It will tell you what you can get if you spend extra money. It
will also identify the sorts of practices that would improve public
spaces. It will also encourage individual departments to make
proposals in their own spending review bids to improve public
105. How far is it involving both the old part
of the Department of Transport and your sections? (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) It is involving all parts of government
and in particular transport, local government, the regions and
the housing, urban policy and planning bits of our department.
It is also involving DEFRA; it is also involving the Home Office
106. Do you think our report on walking in towns
and cities helped that discussion? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
I think it did help that discussion considerably. I think we responded
yesterday to your report on walking.
107. Last week, I think. (Lord Falconer
of Thoroton) I apologise.
108. I am aware that there has been quite a
lot of research and review going on of policies that relate to
the historic environment and we were expecting that there was
going to be a government statement. It has not happened yet. (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) This is in response to the power of
109. Yes. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
That statement will come in the next few weeks.
110. Before Christmas? (Lord Falconer
of Thoroton) Yes.
111. Could you give us a sneak preview and tell
us whether or not you agree with the conclusions of power of place
that historic buildings do play a vital role in urban regeneration? (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) I agree with the last sentence, namely
that historic buildings do play a vital role in regeneration,
and that we should take active steps to preserve our historic
heritage. It would be wrong for me to go further when the Secretary
of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Secretary of State
for Transport, Local Government and the Regions are going to issue
a detailed statement.
112. That will be a joint statement? (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.
113. Why has it taken them so long to agree
or have they still not agreed? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
I do not think there is any disagreement between them. I do not
know why it has taken so long to produce the response to it. I
suspect that there have been other things that got in the way
before it was produced.
114. Would you like to hazard a guess as to
how many urban regeneration programmes there are now within your
department and in government more widely? (Lord Falconer
of Thoroton) It depends what you mean by government. If you
cover every initiative, including things like education action
zones, health action zones, the single regeneration budget, new
deal for communities, there are very, very many.
115. We had a guess at about 35. (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) I was going to say more but it may well
be that you are more accurate than I am.
116. I suppose there is a cynical feeling that
new initiatives come out once every so often for ministers to
get publicity from them rather than because they are needed in
local communities. Is it not about time we streamlined some of
these or are there so many now that they are falling over each
other and people do not have any idea how they interrelate to
each other? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is plainly
time that there was a much more streamlined approach to how you
deal with particular initiatives. I do not agree with your characterisation
at the beginning. It is plain that if you went to certain communities
you would see that those area based regeneration schemes have
saved certain communities from completely falling over the edge.
If you look, for example, at the 39 new deal for communities areas
they are regarded as doing well in particular areas. It is early
days yet and I think it was right for us to do them. It would
be wrong to write off huge tranches of regeneration because there
are too many schemes in existence. There are too many schemes;
they do need to be streamlined. The Regional Coordination Unit
in government is presently working on trying to reduce the number
and streamline them. We in government are very aware of the fact
that initiatives bring with them application burdens, monitoring
burdens, complication burdens which are not welcomed on the ground.
What is more, they do not join up with each other adequately.
We need to ensure that is the position as well.
117. On the point about how better coordination
might be introduced, there is a feeling as well that one of the
difficulties has been that central government has been wanting
to do things itself and channel money down by one initiative after
another. On the ground, the one body that might be able to do
some better coordination, because it is closer to the localities,
is the local authority. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
118. To a large extent, they feel they have
been bypassed in this process. The money has been sent down, round
them, not involving them or at least not more than superficially.
If there is going to be better coordination, should they not have
a bigger role in that coordination? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
Yes. We would see local authorities as very much the community
leaders in relation to all of that, but there are other people
who need to be engaged in the process, other statutory providersfor
example, the National Health Serviceand the community and
the business sector. Local strategic partnerships do represent
a real way of bringing those people together. Local authorities
have to take the lead in setting them up because they are the
community leaders, but you do need to engage these other players
in order for there to be focused regeneration. I do not think
local authorities are being bypassed in money terms. The neighbourhood
renewal fund, which goes to the 88 most deprived areas, goes straight
to the local authorities for them to decide how they spend money
on regeneration or fighting deprivation in their areas.
119. It has been announced that there will not
be any more SRB programmes but the existing programmes will still
be running for another six to seven years. Many of the programmes
that they are delivering are neighbourhood renewal programmes.
Could you tell us how government offices and the RDAs are working
together to deliver those programmes? (Lord Falconer of
Thoroton) RDAs have responsibility for single regeneration
budget money. Most of the money is allocated but the distribution
of the money to the particular schemes they will get advice on
from government offices. The responsibility in relation to it
rests with the RDAs now.