Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-189)




  180. You make a powerful point. Has either the Partnership or the TUC given any thought to what the threshold would be for that? Are we talking about 200, 2,000? You are talking about a very special kind of social plan. For your situation in retrospect it was an absolutely obvious thing to recommend. Would you have a view about that level? When you clearly have a catastrophic failure in a local job market of that order, there is no question that it is an obvious thing to think about immediately, but maybe if the policy makers in central government did a little bit more thinking do you get a sense of the level at which you would start thinking it would be necessary?
  (Mr Allen) Start at 100 jobs.

  181. You think 100.
  (Mr Allen) Yes. We ought to look at it and see what needs to be done.

  182. So 100 job losses at the one time.
  (Mr Allen) Yes.

  183. People being just cleared out, the business finishing, 100 jobs at risk. You think at that level you could usefully employ some of these mechanisms.
  (Mr Allen) Yes; not to the scale we did at Luton Vauxhall.
  (Mr Heselden) Not to contradict that in any way, when the point comes to analyse whether the model from Luton Vauxhall Partnership can work in a particular scenario, you need to look at other factors like what the impact is going to be on the community of a closure. It may well be that if the labour market is very tight there anyway, it might be determined that is not the best use of RDA[70] resources or whatever. It is not just a number that is the trigger. There are other factors which come into play. There ought to be two sorts of response to industrial closures and redundancies. Where there is a significant or substantial closure in a community that is vulnerable the model the Luton Vauxhall Partnership has followed is very important and has lots of good practice and that should be followed. You made the point about Dunstable and other redundancies. The TUC would argue that the Government should have a much more aggressive industrial strategy. Part of that strategy should be RDAs having the resources and the responsibility to deal with redundancies as a matter of course, not just the very large ones but perhaps all redundancies. We have a situation where manufacturers, for example, at the highest level of skills shortage in their sector, manufacturing jobs being lost, some agencies working in the public domain like the Employment Service working as a brokerage, but perhaps not enough and those natural links are not made. RDAs could be much more proactive in providing that sort of bridging service. The TUC would argue that yes, where there is an exceptional redundancy you have an exceptional approach to it and that would be the Luton Vauxhall Partnership. In ordinary cases of redundancy the RDA should be working closely with other agencies to deal with those redundancy situations; it is not just big headline redundancies which get resources but they are all addressed. That makes the labour market work better rather than distorting it.

  184. Absolutely; that makes perfect sense. Where is your future as a partnership? Is there a point at which you say self-immolate and disappear? Do you go on or do you move Luton to Liverpool? What is the long term for you?
  (Mr Reyner) We have achieved what we set out to do in many respects and from an organisational project time line, decisions being made on time and that kind of organisation, it is now time for the Luton Vauxhall Partnership to move into the more general Luton forum which is about the total future of Luton and its community including Dunstable as well.

  185. You are not going to lose all this corporate knowledge.
  (Mr Reyner) No.

  186. It is hard won in many ways.
  (Mr Reyner) Many of the people in the Luton Vauxhall Partnership will be in the forum. The point about the Butterfield Park site, which you will know is very exciting for this whole community, is that we as a RDA would hope to continue our relationship in that particular exciting activity for Luton.

  187. So lessons can be learned, not just for the locality but there is some modelling we could take and some experience we could use to apply in other situations which hopefully would not occur that often but when they do somebody has some idea of what the menu is from day two when the thunderbolt comes out of the sky.
  (Mr Allen) Yes. We are aiming to transfer to Luton Forum, which is the local strategic partnership, around about September.
  (Mr Hart) The other feature of this which is very sad is that both in Luton and Dagenham the degree of co-ordination of government agencies, company, trade unions, after the event is so important that if that kind of partnership had been delivered in all sorts of ways ten years previously or seven years previously you might not have ended up with the closure itself. Various initiatives might have been taken.

Mrs Humble

  188. Mr Allen has in some ways answered part of the question I was going to ask. As you are going to be refocusing and moving into the community my question was that there are already lots of partnerships out there and were you going to duplicate them? Then you said that you were going to become part of the local strategic partnership. Do you see that as a possible focus in the future for developing immediate responses to the situation, not just that you have outlined, but also the situation that we have all faced in our constituencies of small-scale job losses for which there does not seem to be an immediate response. It does not fit into any easy category. Do you think it is for the local strategic partnerships? Certainly in Lancashire covering my constituency we have the Lancashire West Partnership which took over part of the responsibilities of the old TECs16 when the TECs became the Learning and Skills Councils. Who there within the new system of partnerships could perhaps best be the focus of what you are trying to do?
  (Mr Allen) It is early days because it has only just been accredited. It is meant to be a strategic body and they could take the lead. Even if they did not do the delivery action, they could actually be in the lead in drawing together all departments and coming up with an action plan. As long as they have access to funding, I do not see why the strategic partnership could not take on this role because they are looking at the social issues, the physical issues and the employment issues.

  189. Would it be big enough?
  (Mr Allen) I think it would.
  (Mr Reyner) It would have to be very focused. The success of the Luton Vauxhall Partnership is that we maintained focus.
  (Mr Hart) A local strategic partnership (LSP) would have difficulty unless it had had the experience. I am involved in another one and unless it had already got all the delivery agencies lined up, a new issue like this emerging of a LSP would cause it great difficulty. It might be the right strategic partnership, but the key is having the delivery agencies around and working together in order to pool their resources to do the business on a particular redundancy.
  (Mr Heselden) That is very true. LSP would not have the capacity, but it can articulate the local voice and then know where to go, which would be the regional development agency to get the expertise.

  Chairman: We could discuss this for the rest of the afternoon. I am terribly sorry, time is against us. I apologise again for delaying your evidence session but it has been very valuable for us. We wish you well in everything that your are doing both now and in the future. Maybe we could have a correspondence with Mr Heselden to tidy up the technical questions if we may, if you would not mind taking that message back to the TUC? Thank you all very much indeed, for your memorandum and your appearance here this morning. The Committee stands adjourned.

16 Training and Enterprise Councils.

70   Regional Development Agency. Back

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