Communities and Local Government Committee: Press Notice

Session 2006-07  17 March 2007


Not to be published in full, or in part, in any form before 11.00am on Monday 19 March 2007



MPs say Ruth Kelly’s Communities and Local Government Department is failing to explain clearly to Parliament and the public what it does and how it spends its budget.

The Communities and Local Government Committee criticised the Department for providing confusing explanations of its spending, not answering MPs questions and producing a “bluntly sub-standard” report on what it does.

The 11-member cross-party Westminster Committee, created to monitor the Department, concluded DCLG shows a “lack of commitment … towards the duty of explaining its activities and achievements to Parliament and the public.”

Chair Dr Phyllis Starkey MP said: “Giving the public and MPs basic, accurate information about how it spends its huge budget should be among DCLG’s first duties.  It must not be treated as a chore, given scant care and attention.”

Secretary of State Ruth Kelly ordered officials to give MPs full information when the Committee found her Department was failing to answer questions about John Prescott’s Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which it succeeded last May.

Officials also had just days to rush out a clear explanation of a £1.35 billion bid for more money and changed programmes. The Committee said their first effort was “opaque, confusing and uninformative”.

DCLG is one of Whitehall’s biggest Departments, spending about £32 billion a year (around 10 per cent of overall Government expenditure) and employing about 2,700 civil servants.  It was created in last May’s Cabinet reshuffle. The Department covers housing, planning, local and regional government and the Government’s race, faith and equalities policies.

The Committee was also concerned that senior officials seemed sometimes unaware of what the Department was doing. MPs fear DCLG risks missing targets for 2007 unless it establishes joined-up relationships with other Departments that share them.

More positively, the Committee found DCLG took considerable steps to address the high levels of bullying, discrimination and harassment reported previously in the former ODPM. The committee will look again at this issue when all staff are surveyed later this year.

It also praised senior officials in the Department for improving their visibility with staff and their internal communications.

Notes for Editors:

1. The Communities and Local Government Committee of 11 MPs (6 Labour, 3 Conservative and 2 Liberal Democrat) is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and its associated bodies. 

The Committee’s current membership is: Dr Phyllis Starkey MP (Chair, Lab), Sir Paul Beresford MP (Con), Mr Clive Betts MP (Lab), John Cummings MP (Lab), Martin Horwood MP (Lib Dem), Mr Greg Hands MP (Con), Anne Main MP (Con), Mr Bill Olner MP (Lab), Dr John Pugh MP (Lib Dem), Emily Thornberry MP (Lab), and David Wright MP (Lab).

2. The transcript of evidence given to the inquiry by the Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly MP can be found at:

3. The transcript of evidence given by the Department’s Permanent Secretary, Peter Housden, and other senior officials, is at:

4. For media inquiries or to arrange an interview with Dr Starkey, please contact Laura Kibby, Media Officer, tel: 0207 219 0718;  Mob: 07917 488557; e-mail