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Partnership Committees (Staff)

Volume 961: debated on Wednesday 31 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many civil servants are involved in membership and servicing of committees in connection with the partnership authorities.

There are 16 civil servants working full-time on servicing the seven inner city partnerships. Taking into account all Government Departments and their regional organisations, about another 85 civil servants are involved partially in the work of the partnerships and the 15 programme authorities.

Will the right hon. Gentleman compare that number with the number of voluntary workers and interest groups that are involved in the partnerships? Does he agree that to make them a success it is important that the full co-operation of the local community should be sought and involved?

I shall not take up the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question and make comparisons. It would not be possible to obtain the statistics, even if they were relevant. The importance of local co-operation was given great force in the White Paper on inner city policy. I assure the House that in every one of the partnerships and programme authorities there has been a considerable effort to draw in community and voluntary activity. In all instances, considerable portions of the enlarged urban aid programme to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has referred have been directed to assist an expansion of community work.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the work of the civil servants and that of the voluntary agencies would be better known if the partnership committees were open to the public, especially where local authorities on the partnership committees make representations to the Secretary of State that that should be so? Is it not significant that these local authorities are all Labour controlled? It may be that they are calling on the Government to carry out Labour Party policy that was passed in 1974, namely, that there should be more open government. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, at least in this respect, it is about time we implemented that policy? What are the Government afraid of?

There was not an announced inner city policy in 1974. There is no lack of information between the local authorities, both county and district, the other authorities involved in the partnerships and the community organisations. There are, rightly, variations in the way in which consultation is undertaken in the various partnerships and programme authorities. I do not accept that the opening up of what are, in effect, steering groups would provide a solution to communication. Other means must be found.