Report publication: Communities and Local Government's Departmental Annual Report 2009, and the performance of the Department in 2008-09
The performance of the Department for Communities and Local Government, and its ability to exert influence over fellow Whitehall departments, has improved over the last year, says an all party group of MPs, but the Department has suffered during that time from excessive rates of ministerial and staff turnover.
Launching her committee's latest annual review of CLG, Dr Phyllis Starkey, chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee at the House of Commons, said,
"Our report acknowledges improvements in CLG's performance and influence over the past year. However, the Department has yet to become the kind of 'big hitter' it needs to be within Whitehall and we have yet to see consistent and sustained evidence that the Department possesses the full range of skills required for the effective formulation and delivery of the policies for which it is responsible. It cannot help that officials serve an average tenure of just nine months and that, over the lifetime of the Department so far, senior Ministers have remained in post for barely a year. "
In its third report examining the work of the department since its establishment in 2006, the Committee:
Expresses frustration that no complete set of figures is yet available to show how well the Department is doing and warns that much greater efforts must be made in future to provide sufficient information about progress against Public Service Agreement and Departmental Strategic Objective targets at a much earlier stage.
Commends the Department for the progress it can report against measurable targets on housing but warns that future achievement will be much weaker as the credit crunch feeds through into reported figures for new housing completions. It likewise calls on the department to do far more to improve the supply of planning skills to local government.
Warns the department that a pattern of "leaving staff in post for an average of just 9 months before moving them on to something new is not a sensible way to run an organisation" and recommends that the Prime Minister should "take greater account of the prerequisites for effective government" by curbing the rate of ministerial turnover.
Praises the Department and the Fire and Rescue Service for progress made in reducing the incidence of fires and the number of deaths and casualties arising from them. Nevertheless, it points out that the department still lacks the essential project management skills required to deliver its own objectives in this area.
Argues that on the matter of efficiency savings, a failure to realise the Department's overall target to shave £887 million out of its budget by March 2011 will leave a serious hole in itsplans. The department must provide evidence of the contingency plans it has in place to identify new areas of saving that could contribute to this target or cover the shortfall should the overall target (and additional savings required in 2011 from staff re-location) not be realised.
Welcomes the government's efforts to address calls for rental housing reform and restates its long held view that the Government should consider the long-term future of the balance of housing tenures.
The full report is available here:
Committee Membership is as follows: Dr Phyllis Starkey MP (Chair, Lab), Sir Paul Beresford MP (Con),
Mr Clive Betts MP (Lab), John Cummings MP (Lab), Andrew George (Lib Dem), Mr Greg Hands MP (Con), Anne Main MP (Con), Dr John Pugh MP (Lib Dem), Alison Seabeck MP (Lab), Andy Slaughter MP (Lab), Neil Turner MP (Lab).
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