Examination of Witness (Questions 400
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
400. Where is the transparency?
(Mr Raynsford) Their decisions will be reported.
401. As the old group decisions were reported.
(Mr Raynsford) The cabinet makes clear the relatively
small number of members of the council who are responsible for
the decision, and they are known to be responsible.
402. The difference between the old system and
new system is not in transparency but in numbers. Before the group
might have been a large group that took the decision in secret
but now it is a small one, and that is better.
(Mr Raynsford) I believe it is a much better way to
take decisions which clarifies responsibility.
(Mr Raynsford) Because it makes clear who is responsible
and it limits that to a defined number of people.
Mrs Dunwoody: We have been round that circle,
it is clear.
404. When are you going to reassess the effectiveness
(Mr Raynsford) As I said, this is a newly emerging
framework. We will obviously look closely at how it develops,
we do not take a totally fixed view about how constitutional arrangements
might develop in the future. I have already indicated in our White
Paper we expect to indicate some areas where there will be greater
freedom for local government to define arrangements.
405. Are you disappointed that so few areas
want elected mayors?
(Mr Raynsford) No, I think it is entirely a matter
for the areas themselves to decide. It is right they should have
that opportunity and the electors should decide this in those
areas where there is an interest.
406. It worries me, we used to get advice in
local government that you could not take decisions in principle
until you had been through the proper process and you could not
whip people on the planning committee, there had to be an opportunity
for everyone to give their views. Given that many cabinets operate
a completely closed system are you not decreasing the democratic
deficit and there is no opportunity to make representations?
(Mr Raynsford) I was seeking to define the difference
between an important in principle decision as to whether or not
an authority should seek to establish a major new transport scheme
and the detailed mitigation necessary to ensure that the impact
of that does not have an adverse effect.
407. Out of town shopping centres and all of
those decisions could be taken without the public being there?
(Mr Raynsford) I would regard it as appropriate.
408. They could be under legislation.
(Mr Raynsford) I think it is right that the executive
should be focussing on strategic decisions and should ensure that
it is able to shape the future development of its area in a way
that meets it objectives.
409. If you lived next door to a site with a
major new shopping centre on it or an open cast it is going to
affect you and you should have an opportunity to make objections?
(Mr Raynsford) Of course. People will have opportunities.
The important distinction is that the cabinet should be acting
on behalf of the authority as a whole and pursuing its strategic
objective in conformity with its community plan, which will have
been the subject of detailed discussion and consultation with
the public. The public will have an opportunity to express a view
on key decisions like that before they are taken and then the
detailed mitigation can be considered.
410. That would not be now considered necessary
in the new arrangements for planning. If do you not have pre-zoning
you cannot take part and make representations before the strategic
decision is made, where is the input?
(Mr Raynsford) I hesitate to go on too much on planning
because I am not the minister now responsible for that, but I
was trying to illustrate there is a distinction to be drawn between
the executive role of the cabinet in pursuing the strategic objectives
of the authority and doing so within a framework which allowed
proper consultation with the public as against the more detailed
scrutiny of the implementation which can best be carried out by
a planning committee.
411. You are not saying consultation and an
in principle decision has been taken?
(Mr Raynsford) No, I am not. I am saying that best
practice will always involve consultation before decisions are
412. That is not what you said before.
(Mr Raynsford) I said that the executive should be
taking decisions in conformity with a community plan which would
have been developed in consultation with the community.
413. You are very well aware that community
plans can be very general, the point that is being made to you
over and over again is that you are actually depriving a local
population of the right to have an input into a major decision
because the planning committee of the future will be told these
are the decisions in principle and you may decide within these
(Mr Raynsford) Not at all. What we are seeking to
do is to create a more effective framework for decision making
in which the responsibility of decisions is clear and those decisions
are taken by people who have a clear responsibility to pursue
the strategic objective defined for that authority.
414. Can I ask you how councillors allowances
pensions had been the subject of a Jo Moore e-mail?
(Mr Raynsford) I do not know.
415. You do not know.
(Mr Raynsford) No.
416. You have no idea at all why this should
have been discussed as being a good day to get anything that we
want to bury out?
(Mr Raynsford) All I know is that on the day before,
10 September, I had seen papers relating to the consultation on
councillors expenses and allowances and I cleared those for publication.
417. You have no particular reason to want to
(Mr Raynsford) I had no particular reason to want
to hide it.
418. What is the lowest turnout in a local election
in the last three years?
(Mr Raynsford) I think probably 10 per cent or 11
per cent in the Sunderland referendum on a mayor, if you treat
that as a local election. If you define that as part of a local
election that would probably be the lowest turnout. I cannot off
the top of my head give you absolute chapter and verse.
419. Why do you think that the turnout for the
election for New Deals has been higher than local elections?
(Mr Raynsford) I think there are some very interesting
lessons to be learned from the New Deal for Community elections
and indeed some of the mayoral referendums, which have also produced
higher turnouts than local government elections. The conclusion,
the first one, is that where the local population feels it is
more likely to affect their lives and have an impact on them they
are more likely to be involved