Homes and Communities Agency

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3rd March 2009.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Minister of State (Department of Communities and Local Government) (Housing) 2:30 pm, 3rd March 2009

The hon. Gentleman's numbers are out of date. I think that £100 million was the original prediction for the HCA's running costs. The figure is now expected to be more like £86 million— [ Interruption. ] As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate—judging from the noises off, not all his colleagues do—it is believed that the amalgamation of the agency and English Partnerships, and the new structure of agencies, will result in substantial savings. From memory, I can say that those savings will be some £400 million, which will allow funding for a substantial number of new homes. I have not been scrutinising the detailed staffing arrangements for the agency, and neither do I think that it is necessarily useful for me to do so. However, it is typical of the Opposition to be much more interested in the number of employees, which they think they can criticise, than in the work being done by the agency, which is releasing thousands of new homes for the use of the British public.

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Garry Lelliott
Posted on 4 Mar 2009 1:29 pm (Report this annotation)

Margaret Beckett has clearly learned a thing or two from Gordon Brown about answering a question without answering.
There is no mention of the number of press officers employed by the HCA (the original subject of the question), just a vague criticism of the Tories for bringing it up, she then goes on the tell us that the HCS will cost £14 million less to run (bargain), then goes on to give a vague and unsubstantiated figure of £400 million as a saving due to the HCAs existence, and finally caps it off with the delusion that thousands of new homes will be released to the British Public. If concreting over large swathes of green belt building un-ecotowns is her idea of a job well done, I despair for our green and pleasant land.

Tony Smith
Posted on 13 Mar 2009 4:18 pm (Report this annotation)

An alternative response: the question was actually in three parts:

1)An implied question about the £100m running costs - this is answered by providing the accurate figure and also putting it in the proper context of the merger of agencies saving a substantial amount of money. £14m is a relatively small saving but its still true and people have a right to know the whole context rather than the narrow one provided by the questioner.

2)Was she aware of the appointment of 28 press officers? This is answered clearly by saying that she hasn't been scrutinising the detailed staffing and that this would not necessarily be useful. So clearly a "no" answer.

3)Does she think this is appropriate? The answer is clearly that it is not for ministers to micro-manage - in other circumstances the Conservatives might well say the same.

All in all a pretty reasonable answer I would have thought, unless you're an extremely biased tory..