Smaller Government: Shrinking the Quango State - Public Administration Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 1-41)

Frances Done, Rona Chester and Nick Gargan

3 November 2010

Q1   Chair: Welcome to our witnesses for this inquiry into the future of quangos. I wonder if you could initially just identify yourselves for the record.

Frances Done: I'm Frances Done; I'm the Chair of the Youth Justice Board.

Rona Chester: I'm Rona Chester; I'm the Chief Operating Officer of Sport England.

Nick Gargan: I'm Nick Gargan; I'm the acting Chief Executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency.

Chair: Thank you very much for joining us today. Mr Elphicke is going to ask you a few opening questions about your activities.

Q2   Charlie Elphicke: I was wondering if each of you could give a brief description of your organisation in terms of annual budget, number of employees and two sentences about your functions.

Frances Done: Shall I start? Youth Justice Board for England and Wales: we are responsible for oversight and leadership of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales, setting a framework for 157 Youth Offending Teams. We also commission the secure state for young people—that's for young people in custody—and on a daily basis we place the young people in custody from court. Our budget is about £480 million for the current year and we have got 310 employees at the present time.

Q3   Charlie Elphicke: How much is the budget each year?

Frances Done: £480 million.

Rona Chester: Sport England is an Executive Non­Departmental Public Body. We're responsible for a technical function, for the delivery of mass participation sport, and also we're responsible for the delivery of a world­class community sports environment. We're also a National Lottery distributor as well as receiving grant­in­aid. Our combined rough budgets are over £200 million, roughly £235 million—split between National Lottery and also Exchequer funding. We fund the 46 national governing bodies and also the wider sports environment. We have a headcount of roughly 239 people today.

Q4   Charlie Elphicke: You distribute £235 million a year—that's Exchequer and Lottery funding—that seems to be your total budget. How much of that is administration and how much of that goes to the front line and is distributed?

Rona Chester: Obviously, it's really important to us that we maximise the amount that's delivered to the front line. Our Exchequer operating costs, and that includes building, people, are roughly about £12 million.

Nick Gargan: The NPIA is an organisation that's reducing in size. This year it will reduce from around 2,200 to just under 2,000 people. The budget is also reducing; the resource budget for this year net of income is £470 million.[1] We do things like provision of major databases to policing. We provide national police radios, the Airwave service. We're also responsible for leadership training, promotion examinations, specialist training, covert training, forensic training, and all doctrine and guidance. A lot of that is provided on behalf of ACPO to policing on subjects as diverse as murder investigation through to kidnap and child abuse investigation too.

Q5   Charlie Elphicke: Do you happen to know, leaving aside your own organisation and Home Office costs, how much the entire policing budget in the UK is in terms of annual spend?

Nick Gargan: No.

Q6   Charlie Elphicke: Do you know what each force spends—the total spent on policing forces in the UK?

Nick Gargan: Overall policing is around £14 billion, of which around £9 billion comes from central grant, and the remainder from other sources.

Chair: So it's a relatively small percentage of the budget.

Q7   Charlie Elphicke: There has been a lot of interest in organisations such as yours in terms of lobbying and things like that, and spending on marketing, public affairs, and PR and all that sort of stuff. I'm sure you can dispel the myths and each of you can confirm to this Committee that none of you have ever instructed any public affairs organisation. If so, can you tell us when and how?

Frances Done: I think I can say with confidence that we've never instructed a public affairs organisation to do anything like lobbying or marketing. We simply subscribe to information services. I'm not quite sure whether they would count in your category, but nothing of the area that I think you would be concerned about.

Rona Chester: During my period I haven't instructed any affairs agencies, and we don't engage in lobbying. Our marketing budget is minimal. Similarly information services, it's a very minimal amount of the operating costs that I described to you.

Nick Gargan: I've certainly never instructed a company of that sort. Our marketing and communications spend is around 1%[2] of the budget. We're bearing down on that with a view to reducing it substantially. It's inflated by the fact that a lot of what others might describe as training events are actually conferences for practitioners, and are classed as part of marketing spend in the agency. I'd rather see them categorised differently.

Q8   Chair: £4.7 million on marketing?

Nick Gargan: Yes.[3] But as I say, a high proportion of that is broader communications and actually it feels to me more like training. For example, we're rolling out the Police National Database this year; it's a very important piece of change for policing. There are three people involved in ensuring that the service is ready for that. Now they're categorised as marketing and communications people, but actually they're involved in effectively training the service and readying the service for this new piece of equipment. That's not untypical of what we do.

Q9   Charlie Elphicke: How much do each of you spend on conferences?

Frances Done: I'm afraid I can't give you that exact figure; I could certainly provide that information afterwards. Just to give you an example, the Annual Youth Justice Convention, which we are involved in ensuring happens, is actually run by a private company and we share the profits, so it has no costs to the Youth Justice Board. That is very important to us because obviously we want to do everything at minimum cost. That's a very successful conference with 800 delegates across the youth justice system; it's a very useful vehicle for us but it doesn't actually cost us any money, and this year we'll make a profit. Other than that, in terms of conferences we simply have periodic events with, for example, all the youth justice managers across England and Wales, with the leaders of secure estate, the directors of secure units with people in custody, bringing them all together at pretty minimal cost really. I think that's the sort of thing that you're asking. I can certainly provide you with that figure but I think you'll—

Q10   Charlie Elphicke: Also attending other conferences? So conferences you yourselves sponsor, or attending other conferences.

Frances Done: Well certainly we don't significantly attend conferences. That's really not how we spend our time. Our time is spent on things that are extremely productive; out there getting change and improvement in the youth justice system.

Rona Chester: We have certainly during the year borne down on our marketing expenditure considerably. We don't, similarly, attend conferences, and we don't sponsor conferences. However, we are a Lottery distributor and there are certain implications for a Lottery distributor; although we try to keep those costs to a minimum, we need to make the public aware of our Lottery funds. So without some expenditure I think our conference expenditure, communications expenditure would be primarily on our website. But we need to make that information available.

Nick Gargan: We are a conference provider. On behalf of the service, we work with the Association of Chief Police Officers to put on a number of conferences for the police service and have sites at Bramshill in Hampshire, at Ryton­on­Dunsmore near Coventry, we have a site near Durham and another site at Wyboston in Bedfordshire, where we actually put on conferences. We're not particularly big attenders at other paid-for conferences outside of the service, but we do have one or two international partnerships that have conferences associated with them, but they're pretty few in number.

Q11   Charlie Elphicke: Finally, are each of your organisations subject to Freedom of Information Act requests?

Frances Done: Yes, we're subject to Freedom of Information in the same way as any other public body.

Rona Chester: Absolutely. We have a resource for Freedom of Information requests and we believe we're becoming increasingly more transparent and visible.

Nick Gargan: So are we, and particularly the police press but others too make good use of that.

Q12   Charlie Elphicke: But unlike ACPO you don't have hordes of empty properties lurking around the place? You're running yourselves efficiently?

Nick Gargan: We think we run ourselves very efficiently, increasingly efficiently, and I'm unaware of any empty properties.

Q13   Chair: Do you think the Government is right to propose radical reform of your organisations?

Frances Done: Sorry, are you asking about my organisation?

Chair: Yes, each of them.

Frances Done: I think that's entirely a matter for government really. It was made clear before the election that this was a possibility if there was a change of government, so we were well aware that that might be a possibility. I think the process has perhaps been one that we would have anticipated might be different, but it's entirely a matter for government whether it wants to review any or all of the public bodies it sponsors in different ways.

Rona Chester: In our case we feel that it was an entirely logical decision, if you take into account the discussions that had already been happening about bringing the two organisations under one roof. But there are going to be a number of challenges and we've made government aware of those. Timing for us is going to be absolutely critical: the Olympics in 2012. Sport is a devolved issue for the home countries, and that's going to be an interesting challenge for the new organisation. Also, the third thing we made government aware of is that the two bodies are very distinctly different; they've got different specialisations, different delivery streams. You've got UK elite sport and mass participation sport, and I think we've made it very clear to government that any process we undertake really needs to take those specialisations into consideration. So yes it was logical but there are challenges.

Nick Gargan: I absolutely agree with Frances that it's for governments to decide what's to be done, and I'm very proud of the way that people in the NPIA have got on with making it work and supporting government in making those changes happen.

Q14   Chair: Do you feel that your organisation is being consulted about the way this is being done?

Nick Gargan: Yes. We have reasonable access to ministers, and senior officials in the Home Office are sounding us out on proposed changes and structures. While it is clear that the NPIA is to be phased out, it's not yet clear what set of arrangements will take our place in the place of SOCA, and I think there is a very healthy and positive discussion taking place, and our views are being taken very much into account.

Q15   Chair: Ms Chester, good dialogue?

Rona Chester: Yes, dialogue at all levels. We were well aware, while the Government was in opposition, there had been talk about bringing both organisations under one roof, and that dialogue has continued over the following months.

Frances Done: I think I have a slightly different view in that it's absolutely for the ministers to decide whether they do this and how they do it and so on. We're not directly consulted about the element of the decision about abolishing the YJB; however, all our senior officials are very involved in discussions about all aspects of the Justice Green Paper, which is due in December. Obviously there will be a very important element of that about youth justice. Our senior officials obviously provide a lot of expertise into the discussions of MoJ about that. The actual element about whether the YJB should exist or not was not something we were specifically consulted about.

The Youth Justice Board was established as part of a major set of reforms in 1998, under the Crime and Disorder Act. This set up parallel youth offending teams to provide leadership to youth justice at local level, while at the same time setting up the Youth Justice Board, national leadership and coherence across a very complex system. We would have expected that there would have been wider consultation, not just with us but with the youth justice system, about the implications of taking one element of that system out without considering the impact on the rest. Given there's a Green Paper coming up we had anticipated that would be part of the process. However, I think ministers felt that it was their job to take a decision based on the criteria set and that's what they've done. Obviously they had a perfect right to do that. We are now very closely involved with the Ministry of Justice in working out how to make sure that all the elements of what the Youth Justice Board does, because they will all be transferred into the Ministry of Justice apparently, are delivered effectively. We very much think that that should be through a dedicated youth justice unit within the Ministry of Justice, so that there's no loss of focus on youth justice, which has delivered quite significant success over the last 12 years.

Q16   Chair: You've all been giving very full answers. I'm very grateful for that but we have 26 minutes left for this session. We'll try and make our questions very short, if you could keep your answers short as well it would be very helpful. The Government have established these four criteria. Were you consulted about how your organisation fitted any of these criteria? Were you asked to give your view? Anybody?

Nick Gargan: We weren't formally consulted about that.

Rona Chester: We perform a technical function, but we weren't actually consulted about the criteria and how they arrived at the decision.

Frances Done: Obviously we were aware of the criteria.

Q17   Chair: But you weren't asked?

Frances Done: No. We did think that there probably could have been some wider considerations to whether those were comprehensive and we expected that to happen after the election, but it didn't.

Q18   Chair: But it would be reasonable, wouldn't it, for the Government to invite each organisation to make a submission of its own case? Have you been asked to make any such submission?

Nick Gargan: Well we had informal opportunities to influence.

Chair: Informal?

Nick Gargan: We knew the question was being asked when the Government was in opposition, and of course the sponsor unit and other members of the Home Office—

Q19   Chair: So you don't feel that there's a procedure that each public body has been taken through that involves a formal consultation with you about your powers, duties and functions, how you deliver them, and how they fit with the criteria? There hasn't been a procedure of that nature?

Frances Done: No, I don't think so. As far as we understand, the guidance, such as it was from the Cabinet Office, involved informing departments that these were the criteria.

Q20   Chair: Were the criteria explained to you?

Frances Done: I don't think there was anyone able to explain what they all individually meant.

Q21   Chair: "No" will do. Do you think there should have been other criteria applied to the case for maintaining a public body, Ms Done?

Frances Done: Yes, I definitely think so because the Youth Justice Board was set up for a good reason, although that doesn't mean to say it should exist forever. It was about national leadership and coherence across a very complex system, and having expertise slightly at arm's length from government. It was thought at the time that this was an important thing to do in that way.

Q22   Chair: So in fact the case for setting up your body does not fit any of the criteria?

Frances Done: There is at least a question to ask as to whether that is a category that should be recognised really, but that wasn't part of the process obviously.

Nick Gargan: I think in policing, the broader question was being asked about the national landscape for policing, and the technical questions were almost set aside as ministers articulated their desire to de-clutter the national landscape and raise our game in terms of combating serious and organised crime. So the technical question was of a secondary importance.

Q23   Chair: Any point to add?

Rona Chester: We feel the criteria were fair. You could have considered other criteria such as having a body for a short space of time to perform a discrete delivery function, where you've required specific expertise.

Q24   Lindsay Roy: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Can each of you briefly tell me in what ways you're accountable at present and to whom?

Frances Done: Accountability?

Lindsay Roy: Yes. To whom are you accountable?

Frances Done: Yes, in terms of ministerial accountability and Parliament, very, because I'm appointed by the Secretary of State: he can end my services at short notice if he wants under the contract; he sets my target for performance and the performance targets for the Youth Justice Board. Ministers sign our corporate plan and our annual review, which goes to Parliament. We're audited by the NAO. Our Chief Executive is the Accounting Officer, accountable to the Public Accounts Committee, and we're obviously very closely working with the sponsor department and a member of their senior management attends our board meetings. So we're certainly very accountable in that direction.

In terms of wider accountabilities, which I think are really important, we're very accountable to the youth justice system as a whole—all those people out there working with young offenders—and that's done through our relationships at local and national level. We're also accountable to the public through the information on our website. We have about 6,000 volunteers working in the system, and of course the Freedom of Information applies to us just like anybody else. So we feel very accountable. In fact the prison reform lobby is not unwilling to come forward and be demanding information at any time or explanations. So very accountable for what we do.

Rona Chester: I won't repeat a very long answer, but yes, we're equally accountable. It's something we take very seriously. In addition we have clarity of purpose and specific targets, so we're also accountable for delivery of those specific targets with regular performance reviews with our sponsoring body. I won't repeat everything that Frances said but—

Nick Gargan: Pretty much the same again in terms of appointment, Accounting Officer, and for the Ministry of Justice read the Home Office. But apart from that the arrangements are mirrored and in addition we are accountable to the tripartite: ACPO and to Association of Police Authorities.

Q25   Lindsay Roy: Again, very briefly I'm interested in how you monitor progress, what your key indicators of success are, and have you met them.

Frances Done: Indicators of success for our organisation?

Lindsay Roy: Yes.

Frances Done: There are three key ones. The number of young people coming into the youth justice system, that's measured on a six-monthly basis and published. The reoffending rate, the frequency of young people reoffending, that's measured on a regular basis, and the numbers of young people in custody. In all those the Youth Justice Board figures are substantially below when we were first brought into effect. So there are very clear measures which ministers are very interested in.

Rona Chester: Similarly we have three very clear measures. Since winning the Olympic bid there have been 700,000 more people participating in sport. We've got something called our Active People Survey, where we survey on a six-monthly basis the number of people performing sport. We also measure people's satisfaction, their sporting experience, and we also measure that drop off of people performing sport, particularly in the 16 to 25 age range.

Nick Gargan: We have a delivery plan. I'm particularly proud of the way that people in the NPIA, in spite of what's happening to its status, have actually rallied and stuck at the task of delivering our targets. This year we will be rolling out the Police National Database, doing work to establish radio coverage for the additional demands of the Olympics. We've rolled out almost 40,000 mobile data devices to operational police officers. We're helping the service make substantial savings through improving its cost effectiveness. We're providing support pretty much to every major crime investigation that you hear about in the news; there is an NPIA support to that through our Crime Operational Support Department. We're pretty much on target to achieve every performance indicator in our delivery plan.

Q26   Lindsay Roy: Is your organisation fit for purpose and does it provide value for money?

Frances Done: Sorry, could you repeat that? I'm a bit deaf and I didn't quite catch it.

Lindsay Roy: Is your organisation fit for purpose and does it provide value for money?

Frances Done: Well I think you'd expect me to say "yes". The only reason I can be confident in saying that is we have been through a six-month review chaired by somebody independent of MoJ and the YJB, Dame Sue Street. That was published in March and looked very much at those issues, and we came out with a clean bill of health. That's something obviously under review all the time by the NAO and other agencies and the sponsor unit.

Rona Chester: Similarly we've had recent NAO reports, themed reports. We believe that we are fit for purpose. Our services are significantly valued by our customers, and we believe that we perform a service that gives value for money.

Q27   Lindsay Roy: Will your organisation be any more accountable under the proposed reforms?

Rona Chester: We'll take the accountability and transparency, which we value, into that new organisation, and we will ensure that that's maintained and will continue to be accountable and fit for purpose.

Q28   Lindsay Roy: Again, to Ms Done, do you think your organisation's functions performed by civil servants responsible to ministers rather than a named chief executive will lead to greater accountability?

Frances Done: I don't think it will increase accountability to ministers, because quite honestly we're very closely working with them already. We are effectively an arm of government and the reason we're there is because we can deliver well across the system. I don't actually think it will improve that. I think there is a risk around our accountability to the wider youth justice system, because there will be, inevitably over time, a loss of expertise, and that's what creates credibility out in the system.

Q29   Chair: Does that go for all of you? Do you think you're all going to be less visible to the public?

Nick Gargan: Our blueprint hasn't been completely decided on yet, so the answer is "it depends".

Rona Chester: As I described previously, we have two very distinct delivery streams and it's really important that we take that into the new organisation. It's important that we build a structure that maintains the visibility of those delivery streams. We have very different levers, drivers: elite performance, mass participation of sport. We're dealing very much, at Sport England, with local community delivery, and it's really important that we retain that visibility.

Q30   Chair: Isn't the named chief executive of a public body more accountable than a civil servant in a department?

Frances Done: I think it's arguable. We certainly have absolutely no sense that we're not accountable to almost everybody. We're certainly accountable to ministers; certainly we feel accountable to the youth justice system, and to the public. So I do struggle with the concept that taking all the functions of the Youth Justice Board into the Ministry of Justice will increase that accountability, but clearly that's the view of ministers and they feel that that is the right move.

Q31   Robert Halfon: Good morning. The Government have talked about the Big Society and transferring the responsibilities of quangos to charities and voluntary groups. How difficult do you think that will be—to transfer the kind of functions that you have to the voluntary sector, or even the private sector for that matter?

Frances Done: In our case I think that question really applies to the whole of the youth justice system, because the services are delivered out in local areas. For example in prevention services, preventing young people getting into crime in the first place, about half of the services are already provided by the third sector; that's really something that we've encouraged for a long time. I think that will probably increase with the Government's very close support. Also, in terms of our own commissioning role, we have private sector contractors providing custody for young people and we work very closely with the third sector. So I think in terms of what we do and the way we do it I think that a direction of travel will be very easy to take, because it's very well established in youth justice.

Rona Chester: In terms of Sport England, I think we'll read our customers, read the NGBs. It's going to be very important for them that a single unified cohesive body will deliver more money to frontline sport, and more money to grassroots sport. Having one entity will make it easier for other sectors and our customers to deal with us. It's going to be one location, one place. We hope to be able to share knowledge and expertise across the different areas of the organisation. We hope to be able to streamline processes and systems, which will make it easier for our customers to deal with us, it will save in terms of time and effort, and we'll start using a common language. It has all of these additional benefits. However, our customers have made it really clear to us, in their discussions with us, that they really value this clarity of performance and purpose, and we need to take that strength into the new organisation. They've also made it very clear that we have to solve the issue of devolved sport. As I mentioned earlier, elite sport is a UK-wide issue; mass participation sport has been devolved. So our customers and community have made it really clear that we have to be able to solve that issue. We're confident that we can but it's going to be a challenge.

Nick Gargan: The current debate around quangos would have you believe that organisations are full of pen-pushers and bean-counters, but the organisation that I lead is full of detectives, analysts, IT specialists and experienced leaders in policing. It's very difficult to see how many of those functions could be fulfilled by the voluntary sector. There is a role for the private sector and I think you may be surprised by the extent to which the private sector is already involved in activities like Airwave, our identification, forensic databases and other national police databases, although there is scope for further involvement of that sort.

Q32   Robert Halfon: How easy would it be for all these quangos to become cooperatives or mutuals, as a model?

Nick Gargan: We've explored that expressly and one of the problems with the fate of our functions is that there are those who think they won't fit comfortably into a national crime agency that they think should have its focus exclusively on serious and organised crime. There's a reticence about putting those functions back into the Home Office because many of them came out of the Home Office a few years ago, not in particularly good shape. Handing them to ACPO is not without problems too. So we're actively proposing what form of co-operative, community interest vehicle, or some mutually owned delivery vehicle for the service might be capable of being constructed, to provide what are pretty vital services to policing.

Frances Done: Our ministers have decided all of our functions will be transferred into the Ministry of Justice, so obviously that would be a matter for further discussion, but at this stage we're working with them on trying to find the best way of doing that, at this stage that hasn't really been considered as a—

Q33   Robert Halfon: But I'm asking if you think mutuals would be a good model for quangos, cooperatives?

Frances Done: I suppose my general answer to that would be, it would depend on what the quango was. Certainly in our case it's not something that has been very carefully considered because at the moment we're just dealing with the issue of transferring functions back to MoJ, and MoJ itself is reviewing its whole structure, so that's all part of the big discussion as well.

Rona Chester: I think in your question you're asking about a mutual. You really need to take into account what the customer wants, the delivery streams and the accountability. Therefore if you have potentially a mutual where one is able to crowd out the other, then that might be a challenge.

Q34   Chair: In your case in particular—you're a grant giving body—there are lots of organisations in the sporting world that would be very competent at handing out grants. The Football Association could hand out all the grants to do with football. Wouldn't that be a more efficient way of doing it?

Rona Chester: It does require a greater level of expertise than just football. Sport is about very different drivers and behaviour and we have expertise at many, many different levels. I don't think that necessarily could be performed by a much larger organisation without those specialisations.

Q35   Robert Halfon: But that expertise could easily be transferred. For example, if you just had the Football Association dealing with football grants, that expertise could easily be transferred over to them. You don't need another quango, with respect, to necessarily do that.

Rona Chester: A significant proportion of our funding, with respect to football, is actually dealt with by the Football Foundation.

Chair: The Football Foundation?

Rona Chester: Yes, rather—

Q36   Chair: Well that rather makes the case, doesn't it?

Rona Chester: Rather than ourselves.

Q37   Chair: How many people do you have dealing with football in your organisation?

Rona Chester: Specifically attached to football, we have a Relationship Manager attached to football, not a significant proportion of people are dealing specifically with football.

Q38   Greg Mulholland: Decisions have largely been taken, with the exception of the National Policing Improvement Agency, and I think it's interesting that you're all in different situations. In your case Frances, you're being absorbed into the department; Rona, you're going through a merger; and Nick, you still don't know what's happening to your functions. So the key thing now is the transition to the new structure. Can you tell me have each of your organisations got a plan for that transition to make that as successful as it could possibly be? Has that plan come from you or has that come from the department or both?

Frances Done: The transition plan is being worked on jointly between the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Justice Board. Our Chief Executive and the relevant director in the Ministry of Justice are jointly chairing the transition board and putting together that plan. So we're pretty confident that we will have absolutely the right level of input into that. The biggest issue for us is about ensuring, given that this decision has been taken now, that youth justice retains a separate delivery orientation and focus within the Ministry of Justice. So there needs to be one youth justice unit, so that that focus is maintained. That is something that is not necessarily totally uncontroversial so we're certainly using our involvement with the Ministry of Justice, which is a very co-operative effort.

Equally I'd like to say that, as Nick said, the staff of the Youth Justice Board have their heads up and are just keeping going, because what they do is so important. We want to take the activity of the Youth Justice Board, all the really important work we do around safeguarding children and preventing young people getting into offending, into the Ministry of Justice in a very orderly fashion. So far so good, I think.

Rona Chester: It's very early days but we have started to build a merger plan, as we call it. The chief executives and chairmen have met with ministers. We're starting to build what the organisation structure will look like, and from that we'll start building what the significant work streams will be. It's likely that DCMS, our sponsoring body, will have a place on the project board.

Nick Gargan: I've been chairing a weekly transition steering group meeting since the announcement was made. In fact, because of in­year savings, we already had the weekly structure that has become the transition steering group from beforehand. That looks after questions like the budget trajectory, communication with our staff, relationships with the service and with the stakeholders, and it also contributes into the programme arrangements that have been put in place by the Home Office around National Crime Agency and other elements of the Government's reforms. We still have some work to do around the formal programme management structures, and they will be determined finally once we actually know what's going where. But we think we have it as boxed off as we can at this early stage, with so much remaining unclear.

Q39   Greg Mulholland: Do you all feel that you've had adequate discussions with sponsoring departments about the transition specifically, and do you feel that you're getting and will get the support that your organisations need to make sure that those functions are still carried through and effectively delivered when the new structures are in place?

Frances Done: I don't think we need support because obviously it's just a joint effort between ourselves and MoJ, and we'll identify whatever resources are needed to support the whole process. I think that will go reasonably well. I think there are still discussions to be had about how to make sure the functions of the Youth Justice Board, which have been successfully carried out in a slightly arm's length way, can be continued with continued success in the quite different environment of the Civil Service. For example, I'm thinking of the fact that in the last two years the custody population of young people has gone down by about a third, saving about £34 million a year, very opposite to the way that the adult justice system has gone. There is a big issue for anyone who's interested in youth justice about how, when moving into a very big department like the Ministry of Justice—which has got a huge focus on adults—the five per cent that is the youth justice system gets the attention it needs. I think that's the challenge for the next 12 months as we make the transition.

Rona Chester: Yes, we have a good working relationship with our sponsoring department and support. If I could make a suggestion, many of these bodies are going to be going through similar challenges and it might be helpful for government to think about some sort of consistent framework, particularly where you have common issues and challenges, for a merger. Many organisations have gone through this before and there's a real danger, if there isn't that consistency, that each body reinvents the wheel.

Nick Gargan: I think there was less consultation and contact than would have been ideal in the run­up to an announcement, but post the announcement of the policing changes, which was 26 July, relationships with both ministers and senior officials at the Home Office have been very good. The Home Secretary came to the agency within a matter of days of the announcement, and staff were grateful for that visit, and I think she was impressed with what she saw. Subsequently, senior officials at the Home Office have been very open and very ready to consult, and the relationship's very positive.

Q40   Greg Mulholland: A final question, if I may, Chair. Once the transition has been completed and the new structures, whatever they are, are in place, what if the functions that you're currently responsible for do appear to not be getting the attention and the focus that you need? Obviously that's the widest concern about the overall reforms—that we'll lose focus on wider participation sport, or on youth justice, or on police improvement. So what then? What would you do and what would you suggest that we do, and other organisations do, to raise those concerns if that happens six months, a year, two years down the line?

Frances Done: Speaking about youth justice, the reason that the Youth Justice Board was set up in the first place was concern about the way things were not being co-ordinated and led within seven departments of government—it's still seven departments now but they've all got different names—plus a whole range of agencies. If the lack of focus we are concerned about starts to have bad effects on progress in youth justice, I think there are several constituencies out there who will make it well known to government, namely parliamentarians, who are very interested in youth justice. The reform groups are very interested in youth justice and are on top of everything that happens every day; they look to see our custody figures every day, they want to know the reoffending rates, they want to know the numbers coming into the system. I think there are organisations and agencies out there, both in the voluntary sector and obviously parliamentary­wise, that will be drawing that to the attention of government, and I very much hope that is the case. We'll be working very hard to try and make sure that focus is maintained within the Ministry of Justice. But it will be a challenge because it didn't work before and it may well be possible to make it work now, but everyone's going to have to work very hard to make that happen.

Rona Chester: In the merged organisation, similarly our customers are going to make government well aware if the specific focus isn't applied appropriately. We do also have an independent board that's accountable for the organisation, and they'll be taking that into consideration and making that visible—those performance targets etc.

Nick Gargan: I think we have to accept that there will be less activity at the centre of policing. Money is coming out of policing and so there will be a reduced degree of activity. Our shared responsibility between the department, ACPO and the agency and its successor bodies is just to make sure that the money comes out of it in a sensible way and we take away the waste, the bureaucracy, the duplication and that type of thing, rather than reducing those resources that protect people in communities.

Q41   Chair: So in summary, do you think that this reorganisation of your particular organisation will save money unless there is just less done than was being done before?

Frances Done: In terms of the Youth Justice Board, ministers have not indicated that the decision was done to save money, because actually our spending review plans involved very substantial savings anyway, which we're on track to deliver because of reductions in custody. So that hasn't been the issue.

Chair: So the answer's "no"?

Frances Done: No.

Rona Chester: Similarly, again it's not about saving money and not about performance; it's about simplifying the landscape for our partners. However, by moving into one location, that will cost less, and we will be able to do that post-Olympics and post the breaks for our current leases.

Nick Gargan: Depending on the structures that are ultimately decided on, there will be opportunities to save money through economies of scale, and there are also opportunities to save money through the savings that we're already making.

Chair: I think you've all been extremely helpful to us. Thank you very, very much, and may I say thank you for your public service. It must be a difficult time for your organisations and we're grateful for the work that you do and your organisations do all the same. Thank you very much indeed.

1   Note from witness: Correction - NPIA resource budget for this year is £368million net of income (£473million before income) Back

2   Note from witness: Correction - NPIA marketing and communications spend is 0.68% of this years budget before income  Back

3   Note from witness: Correction - NPIA marketing and communications spend is £3.2m Back

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