Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219)



  200. With respect, I was not trying to be mischievous.
  (Mr Nall) Thank you.

  201. If I have misunderstood the figures I am no more guilty of fallibility than the Church in Wales. What we are trying to understand is the decision-making process which led to these additional rewards being given to staff in England at the same time as a very painful decision, as I am sure you accept, in terms of redundancies in Wales.
  (Mr Nall) Yes.


  202. What salary are you on, Mr Sparks? Did you receive any increment or bonus?
  (Mr Sparks) No.

  203. What salary are you on?
  (Mr Sparks) I am not quite sure why it is relevant, Chairman. It is declared in the annual accounts.

  Chairman: We will take it from there. I am surprised you do not know what you are getting paid.

Mr Caton

  204. I am still not clear, even after the explanations, about exactly what is included in things which are described as reward. Presumably this comes from the very document you have just mentioned. Perhaps the easiest thing is if you give us another paper which actually breaks down what that reward element is. If it includes normal annual increments, that seems a strange category to have put it in and not very helpful for anybody trying to study your report.
  (Mr Sparks) The report was not produced for this purpose. I can send you a detailed note but my understanding is that broadly half of it is for increments and half of it is for some salaries which would need to be enhanced[6].

  Mr Caton: If we could have a detailed note, it would be very useful, Chairman.

Julie Morgan

  205. I wondered if you could say what your dealings have been with the union in Wales and what their view is of the situation?
  (Mr Sparks) When you say "the union in Wales", we have one trade union for the organisation. What happened was that we briefed the union in advance of the trustee board meeting of the extent of the savings we were making in order that they, which they did, could write to the board to raise any issues they wanted to raise.

  206. So you told them about the overall amount of money which was needed to be saved, you did not say where the proposals were going?
  (Mr Sparks) I do not think we said at the time where the proposals would be. We briefed them about the fact there would be some quite difficult decisions to take. I cannot say for certain. I could find out but I do not know myself sufficiently the detail and as to whether that precision was in. Following the decision we had discussions with them about the process we had used to manage the consultation and, of course, once the formal consultation begins we then have processes for dealing with representations the union want to make within the recognition of procedure agreement.

  207. Have they given a view on these proposals?
  (Mr Sparks) At the moment the discussions are just beginning. Obviously they are reflecting the concerns of their members about the decisions that have been made, but that is part of the process of consultation that is still going on.

  Julie Morgan: Thank you.

Mrs Williams

  208. Can I refer to a press release that you issued, Mr Sparks, announcing this decision. You said that you rejected a proposal to reduce your practice in Wales because you would "not have the capacity to be a national player in Wales and influence the social policy agenda on behalf of children and young people" and that you felt that you would be "letting down children and young people in Wales". Do you not think that the decision to close your operations in Wales has let down children and young people in Wales? What do you think? Have you?
  (Mr Sparks) I just want to be clear about—

  209. It is a simple question. Do you not think that the decision to close your operations in Wales has let down children and young people in Wales? It is a very simple question.
  (Mr Sparks) To the extent that people wanted us to carry on doing our work, yes. In terms of the discussions that are going on now, presumably the issue that people are concerned about is will these children and young people continue to receive a service into the future and I have described some of the things we are trying to do to ensure that will happen. In terms of the feelings, obviously people feel let down, but the fact is I hope that will not be the case because we will be able to negotiate and find some way forward that ensures these services continue.

  210. Do you regret writing that press release?
  (Mr Sparks) I do not regret writing the press release.

  211. Do you accept that the decision has undermined your reputation and standing in England to such an extent that there is a danger that the Society will no longer be an influential national player in England? I think Revd Glover made a remark earlier that perhaps the Society will not be trusted in the future.
  (Mr Sparks) I think I already responded to this question much earlier in quite some detail.

  212. But I would like to revisit that.
  (Mr Sparks) I cannot say anything different from what I said last time.

  213. Your colleague, Mr Nall, has said other things since you answered that question.
  (Mr Sparks) I do not think my answer to the question is different from what it was before.

  214. Mr Nall, am I right in thinking that you were one of the main players in presenting the report to the board meeting on Friday when Lady Toulson rubber-stamped the decision? Were you the main player?
  (Mr Nall) No, I am not a trustee so I cannot be a main player in a trustee decision.

  215. Can I stop you there. We have spent a long time on this, Chairman, we have listened to Lady Toulson and it was explained what the remit was and that it was almost a fait accompli. This is the impression I get from listening to what you have said this afternoon and from reading some of your press releases and your briefing that came through the fax machine this morning. You are management, you present reports to members of the board.
  (Mr Nall) Yes.

  216. I am asking you a simple question. Were you the main player in setting that agenda to the board members?
  (Mr Sparks) No, he was not. No, Charles was not the main player. In that respect I was. What I did to the board was I presented to them all of the information that had come to me of the various debates that had taken place, the various letters that we had received, and I did press a number of times in the board meeting that they did need to decide whether they wanted to reconsider their decision. My advice to them was that the financial situation had not changed since October.

  217. And your financial adviser alongside you was Mr Nall?
  (Mr Sparks) He was indeed, but he was not the main player.

Mr Caton

  218. The Children's Society has a statement of values and I quote from part of it: "In our work with children and young people we will treat them all equally regardless of background, creed or ability". Are you going to amend that to say "we will treat them all equally regardless of background, creed or ability unless they are Welsh"?
  (Mr Sparks) No.

  219. Perhaps you should think about doing that. You say that you will be scrutinising all the vacancies which come up within the Society in coming months to see if they should be reserved for staff facing redundancy. Can you give us a rough indication of how many vacancies of this kind there are likely to be?
  (Mr Sparks) I cannot because it depends. What it is saying is that people who decide to leave to get another job, what we will be doing is trying to make sure wherever possible those jobs are taken by people who are facing redundancy. It depends on the people who are leaving the jobs.

6   See page 32. Back

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