Select Committee on Regulatory Reform Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-62)


29 JANUARY 2008

  Q060.  Dr Doug Naysmith: Your new PSA targets are—and there are three of the major ones—one, to raise the productivity of the UK economy—and that would be a task in itself for most people—two, to deliver the conditions of business success in the UK; and three, to improve the economic performance of all English regions and reducing the gap in economic growth rates between regions. A very substantial agenda, so how do you intend to implement these public service targets? What are your key priorities for the future and how do you intend to communicate them?

  Mr Sargent: I can only talk obviously within the regulatory reform bit because obviously we are a part of the department which actually has the PSA, which are generally across government anyway, most of the PSAs. The manner in which we are dealing with this is what we laid out earlier, in which we broke down the strands of activity. If we take productivity as a target the work that we do basically removes time spent or removes costs spent inappropriately and frees them up to do other things. There are various international studies that say, for example, if we save a business £500 on a particular set of forms—take the Health & Safety Executive's ones, which have been halved—that if you do not have to do that you now have time to do something else, generally sell more or create a new product or innovate, spending more time thinking how can I improve my service and my product. So for us it is very clear that the money that people save in not having to do whatever they are doing, either employing outsiders or spending their own time on it, translates straight through into some other activity, which is more productive and has added value. I think that is how we deliver the productivity agenda. The same applies as you go through the other targets that you referred to.

  Mr Kohli: Within delivering the conditions of business success there are specific indicators on better regulation which obviously we lead on for government, but we are of course a government unit and our role is to encourage others and get others to do the necessary work to make the changes that we want to happen.

  Q061.  Dr Doug Naysmith: How do you intend to communicate what you are doing? I know we have touched on it a lot already.

  Mr Sargent: There are two types of communication. There is the communication we have to do across government, within government, with Ministers, with the civil service and we have a fairly effective line of communication. We have better regulation officials in each of the departments; there is a better regulation Minister, there is a network of Ministers, there is a network of officials. In turn there is our own communications with interested parties out there, whether it is with the National Consumer Council or the CBI who we meet regularly, so the internal and the infrastructural people are quite close to the action, so to speak and we are pretty easily tied into it. If you look at any diary in any given week you will see these monthly directions, so there is that form. The communication with the community at large, who are more difficult to get to, range from the national media, which to me is one of the most important constituents that I am trying to use as they have a huge effect on driving the desire or the needs for regulation quite often, and we engage with them quite actively. We are quite keen on the local press and trade press because we find that those are more usable channels to communicate directly with people in a way that means something to people and so that is the bit that we are quite keen on, and local radio. When we did the simplification plans before Christmas I think the most successful way of getting people to listen was by radio. It was easy to get on to 20 or 30 local radio stations and just talk.

  Q062.  Dr Doug Naysmith: Finally, can I ask you how many employees you have to bring about all this change?

  Mr Kohli: About 90.

  Dr Doug Naysmith: Good luck!

  Chairman: Gentlemen, it has been a very helpful session and I am grateful to you for your time. I guess when you have succeeded in bringing about the cultural changes to which you refer I suppose the final task will be to abolish yourselves! I thank you for your attendance and for being so frank with us. We will be following up some of the points and pressing you for some more detail, but we are grateful for your cooperation.

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