Examination of Witnesses

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 21st June 2022.

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Eamonn Boylan, Laura Shoaf and Joanne Roney gave evidence.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 2:00 pm, 21st June 2022

Welcome back. We are in public session and the proceedings are being broadcast. I encourage you to switch any mobile or electronic devices to silent. I welcome the fourth panel of witnesses. We will now hear oral evidence from Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of Greater Manchester Combined Authority; Laura Shoaf, chief executive of West Midlands Combined Authority; and Joanne Roney OBE, president of SOLACE and also chief executive of Manchester City Council. They are all joining us via Zoom.

Before calling the first Members to ask questions, I remind you all that questions should be limited to matters that are in scope of the Bill and that we must stick to the timings in the programme motion that the Committee agreed this morning. This session will last until 2.40 pm. I find that with larger panels we should try to direct our questions to a specific member of the panel, otherwise one questioner could end up taking all of the session. I also encourage our panellists to be pithy in their answers, but if one of your colleagues has had a question directed to them and you think there is something really important that you need to say, please do indicate and say it because it will add to the evidential value.

I have already introduced the panel. For the sake of time, I will call our first questioner, Tim Farron.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

First, it is great to see you all here. I am not sure who to put the first question to. The levelling-up Bill has provisions for communities that go through devolution settlements and local government reorganisation to have a Mayor, but for that to be called something else and for the title to be amended. Do you think that that is sufficient in terms of respecting the desires of a local community? Is it possible for a community that has not yet got a devolution settlement to construct their own governance arrangements without having a Mayor or anything like it, yet still be able to access the full devolution deal that the Government might offerQ43 ? I will pick Laura.

Laura Shoaf:

I can probably speak only from our perspective as an area that has a Mayor. I will reflect on what we have seen so far in the first and second term. The elected Mayor model has worked really well in our area and has been a success for accountability, which is critical. As devolution continues and more powers are devolved, the mechanisms need to be in place to ensure accountability. In our experience, that works quite well by having an elected Mayor.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Q Looking close to home in my neck of the woods, we have just gone through a local government reorganisation and we have two unitary authorities. Cumbria’s six districts are being abolished. The county council will be abolished and there will be two new authorities from next April: Westmoreland and Furness, and Cumberland. In both cases, those councils are now run by majority by parties that opposed the notion of a Mayor. Do you think it would be respecting the will of the people of those two parts of Cumbria to impose on them a Mayor, or to tell them that they could not have a devolution deal if they did not accept a Mayor?

Laura Shoaf:

I think one of the principles of devolution is that they should be unique to each place. I would not necessarily suggest that one model would work absolutely everywhere. If devolution is to work, in our experience it must be meaningful to the place, and it must be something that reflects democracy and accountability in that place. I do not think there is a one size fits all answer to that, but I would reiterate that in our experience, with our Mayor, that has been a very powerful role to rally around and it has yielded great results.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Q This question is for Eamonn and Laura. One of the missions the Bill will put on a statutory footing will increase public domestic research and development spending outside the greater south-east area of England by a third over the spending review period, and in both of your combined authorities there is an innovation accelerator on top of that. How can we best ensure that that mission is a success? How can we best ensure that the innovation accelerator does what it is supposed to do and catalyses significant amounts of further public and private investment into those two city regions? I will ask Eamonn to start.

Eamonn Boylan:

Thank you. We were very pleased to be identified as one of the three innovation accelerator areas in the White Paper. We have been working very hard on developing a broader approach to innovation through an organisation imaginatively called “Innovation Greater Manchester”. We see the innovation accelerator as being effectively the fuel in the tank that can drive that forward.

It is fair to say that there needs to be a clear concentration on those areas where individual city regions can be globally significant and competitive, rather than having a broader approach. They need to be very clear that the purpose of the innovation accelerator is to improve not only the performance of business and employment in a particular location, but to drive prosperity for the UK as a whole.

There is a need for longevity in terms of the commitment, to make certain that the innovation agenda can be rolled out, developed and properly evolved over a period of time, but also concentration on those areas where, quite clearly, particular places have a significant, if not unique contribution, to make.

Laura Shoaf:

I will do my best not to repeat the exact same answer, but we have another organisation, the aptly titled “Innovation West Midlands”. I reiterate all the points that Eamonn has just made and a point I made slightly earlier, which is that places have different areas of expertise. We want not to spread the jam so thin that it doesn’t make a difference in any one area, but to really invest and be very precise in each area, especially where there is a comparative advantage.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Q Thank you both. The Bill makes it easier and quicker to establish new combined authorities, either with or without a Mayor, in new parts of the country. How important has the role of the Mayor been in terms of being a figurehead and attracting inward investment to your two city regions, and catalysing wider conversations with Whitehall and other stakeholders? What difference has having a Mayor made in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands? I will ask Laura to start answering this question.

Laura Shoaf:

It has really been transformational. As an officer, I was working in the region before there was a Mayor, then in a Mayor’s first term and now in a Mayor’s second term. I would reflect on the fact that the role, with its accountability and ability to galvanise and be a figurehead, has grown over time. It definitely evolves alongside a region.

For us, with our Mayor, we have seen the ability to come together as a region, to make cohesive arguments, to attract a lot more inward investment and to be able to work at scale, if you take something like brownfield land, where we have been able to operate at regional level, so we can have a regional impact, then being very careful not to do what is already done very well locally. I often describe it as two plus two plus make five, instead of four. That is exactly what we have seen through the model to date.

As you can tell, my background is not from this country, but this model is well understood and recognised in other countries when trying to attract inward investment from abroad. It is a model that is understood, works well and helps make it easier, if that makes sense, to drive some of those big conversations.

Eamonn Boylan:

I would certainly echo Laura’s final comment about the international potency of the mayoral model, which is proving to be a real strength. We led the field with the creation of the first combined authority, which has been in operation since 2010. The first mayoral election was in 2017, so they had a lot of experience of working prior to having a Mayor, with strong local leadership provided—particularly by the city of Manchester.

I think the Mayor has had the transformative effect that Laura has described, not only in respect of areas where there is a very clear power vested in the Mayor, but also where the Mayor’s influence and use of soft power can be quite useful in helping to galvanise change and support and amplify activity. The example I would use in the Greater Manchester case is the work we have done collectively on street homelessness and rough sleeping, which has been very successful. A huge of amount of work has been done by individual local authorities, but it has also been galvanised by collaboration through the office of the Mayor. It is a very powerful office and tool for us to use both locally and internationally.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Q The Bill strengthens and streamlines compulsory purchase order powers and creates the opportunity for local authorities to run high street rental auctions as part of a wider shift toward increasing places’ ability to do brownfield regeneration through the brownfield fund, with the new role of Homes England and so on. Are the strengthened CPO powers and the high street rental auctions and so on things you would welcome and which you could see your authorities and your constituent authorities using? I will aim that again at Eamonn and Laura mainly, but if anyone else wants to come in, please do.

Eamonn Boylan:

It would be difficult to make CPO slower. Aiming to accelerate it is very welcome. The flexibility around the application of CPO to support a wider range of purposes is also welcome. I think we need to recognise that initiating a CPO is quite a high-risk activity for a local authority. Therefore, we would need to be certain about the legislative framework within which we were working, but certainly the principle of acceleration of CPO and its broader application is something we would generally welcome and would certainly seek to make use of.

Laura Shoaf:

I will just pick up on the point about pride in place. Pride in place is a key goal that is outlined as part of the levelling-up agenda. I think that being able to speed up the delivery of projects where a compulsory purchase order is needed will bring clarity and help us to deliver pride in place. That is just one other aspect that I think is important.

[Sir Mark Hendrick in the Chair]

Joanne Roney:

I will come in with three quick points to support Laura and Eamonn. Among the wider society of chief executives—who represent the views from up and down the country, including places that do not currently have combined authority or mayoral models—there is a welcome for these additional powers. The first point is that whatever replaces the existing CPO system needs to simple and inexpensive. The current process is very costly.

Secondly, there is a bit of a concern around capacity in local authorities to take advantage of these new powers. Talking with my Manchester hat on, one of the things we do in Greater Manchester is shared capacity between the 10 local authorities through the combined authority, but that capacity point to take effective new powers is important. Thirdly, we would like to see the revoking of permitted development rights to go alongside CPO powers to make the maximum impact in some of our communities.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Q I have one last question to Laura. The Bill, among other things, makes it simpler for Mayors to take on the powers of the police and crime commissioner, effectively streamlining governance and creating a single point of accountability, which enables the join-up of different priorities between crime and transport and so on. If that were to happen and there were to be a decision in Westminster to do that, could you see that there would be some synergies from combining those two roles? You could join up transport and criminal justice policies.

Laura Shoaf:

We have certainly seen it work well elsewhere, including in Greater Manchester. Initially, the combined authority did not have full support to transfer those functions in 2019. What I would suggest that we need to do now is look at the timing of the deal and of Royal Assent, and how we could align governance around that. We would need to look at the issues around co-termination and there would probably be quite a bit of work to make sure that it was something that the entirety of the region would get behind.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Thank you, Laura. Unless Eamonn wants to add anything on that point, I am probably finished.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Thank you, Sir Mark. I am grateful to the witnesses for being with us this afternoon. I will start with a basic question that is probably best answered by the chief executives of the combined authorities, but Joanne, please do contribute if you want to.Q

Your two combined authorities are seen as very much at the forefront of devolution to combined authorities and Mayors. Much of what we talk about in the context of the Bill is about how to push the rest of the country up to having similar levels of responsibility. What more do you want yourselves? What more do you want to build on your current settlement? Where might devolution go in the future for you?

Eamonn Boylan:

We have significant ambition for further devolution and we are working to develop propositions that we will be discussing with officials over the coming weeks in response to the Government’s call for us to step forward with a trailblazer devolution deal, which was contained in the White Paper. The asks would be for greater power and influence in areas such as housing, transport, skills—you will be unsurprised to hear that—because we believe that there is a need for us to be able to shape local skills offers and opportunities to the local jobs market more effectively than currently happens.

The other major ask we have, consistent with a number of other places and some recent think-tank reports, would be for a greater degree of certainty over the funding framework and the outcomes framework that we agree with the Government over a period of time, whether that is a spending review period or some other period. At the moment, we are hampered by the number of separate and completely bespoke competitive processes that we go through to resource an awful lot of our activity. Having greater certainty over funding—not necessarily more funding, although that would be welcome—and greater flexibility over its deployment, for which we would be very willing to be held directly accountable to yourselves in Parliament, would be the real goal for us and a real step forward in terms of the current devolution journey.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Q Laura, what is your response from the West Midlands perspective?

Laura Shoaf:

In a lot of ways, our position is very similar. Again, there is a big focus on skills and a want to go further and faster to have more control over budgets and particularly to look more at employment support and careers. It is similar for transport and housing, but for us, it is very specifically housing retrofit, as we have some of the worst levels of fuel poverty in the country. Another area that is slightly more bespoke to the West Midlands is around digital inclusion, where we have some quite unique circumstances.

We are also interested in flexibility. I would reiterate all the points about funding simplification, funding certainty and funding flexibility and the willingness to be held accountable, and how important it will be through this process to have transparent and accessible local and regional data so that we know whether we are levelling up. That is something we are really keen to work with the Department on. In general, more certainty around funding, which is simplified, and, please, more accountability. Like Greater Manchester, our Mayor is keen to be accountable and held accountable for delivering.

Joanne Roney:

The point I would make is that the devolution settlement needs to be alongside the multi-year local authority funding settlement and sustainable funding for the wider social infrastructure issues that we are trying to tackle, which Laura mentioned.

To pick up that point about fragmented funding, in 2020 the Local Government Association recognised that 448 different grants were paid to councils, with different initiatives and different timescales on them. When at a combined authority level we are trying to tackle delivery of some of those big, wider ambitions, as outlined in the 12 missions, I think that stability and flexibility of funding for local authorities and the wider public sector plays into the mix to make the effect of the devolution changes that we want. So, core funding for public services, alongside the devolution asks, is important.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Q Thank you, Joanne. That leads me nicely into my next question, which is to you, perhaps with your Solace hat on, but obviously in your day-to-day leadership role in a local authority as well. How do your members feel about their current capacity to deliver what they need to as a council? How would they react to being asked to do more things?

Joanne Roney:

Capacity is a huge challenge for local government and for my members, up and down the country. That is capacity in terms of not only workforce and expertise but stable funding. As Eamonn said, it is not necessarily more money, but an understanding of the long-term planning that we need, and multi-year settlements so that we can start to work collectively.

To answer the question about how my members feel about doing more, as Eamonn said, in Greater Manchester we have been at the forefront of working together, as 10 local authorities, with these wider ambitions, for a considerable amount of time. One of the key features of Greater Manchester’s original devolution deal was public sector reform. We were very mindful of the fact that we think we can do more collectively, in particular in that space around prevention, to start to make best use of public sector resources.

My members would say, “More power to devolution to Greater Manchester,” and that, importantly, the resources, reform agendas and public sector expenditure should be dealt with at the lowest possible level to get the changes we need to make the difference to coincide with the 12 missions. That is what they would say.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Q I have one more brief question, if I may—a final point on compulsory purchase orders, to ensure that I understood what was said in the previous answer. Notwithstanding issues of cost and capacity, which link to what Joanne just said, given what is on the face of the Bill on CPO, would you like to see anything further in the Bill, or do you think anything needs to be added or subtracted? Eamonn, you mentioned permitted development. That question is to any or all of the panellists.

Eamonn Boylan:

The measures contained in the Bill in respect of CPO are eminently sensible and supportable. There will always be issues—this goes back to Joanne’s point about certainty of funding—with the availability of funding and the ability to manage what is still a complex legal framework, but the reforms set out in the Bill are an essential prerequisite for making CPO more applicable and useful in delivering place-based regeneration.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To start, I have a question for Ms Roney. There are proposals to move from section 106 funding to a new infrastructure funding model. How will that be helpful in releasing funding to generate affordable and social housing? Where do you see the risks in that funding proposalQ ?

Joanne Roney:

We have gone around the loop on a number of these different measures for a considerable time. If the outcome is to deliver more affordable housing, I think the challenge is still the variances between different parts of the country and the ability to deliver affordable housing because of the value of the land and the cost of build. So I am not sure that that will necessarily fix it, but then I am not sure that section 106 fixed it either. I think we should be having a different conversation—about how we provide affordable housing in different areas.

I will call on my colleague Eamonn to help me here, because one of the successes of the combined authority has been the revolving housing investment fund that we have used and the different models we have created to try to get better value out of all our developments and translate that into affordable housing numbers. We have had a range of success, but some of that has come from the ability to use flexible funding that we already have to support some schemes.

Overall, I think we would support the proposal in the Bill, but we need to do more to look at affordable housing provision in different parts of the country, and different innovative and flexible ways to drive value in order to provide truly affordable homes.

Eamonn Boylan:

I echo Joanne’s comments, but I will just make the point—I know a number of Committee members will be well aware of this—that section 106 is far less potent in northern parts of the country than in others because of the issues around viability, particularly where we are dealing with brownfield land. Most of my brownfield land has the periodic table underneath it, and therefore the costs of remediation are significant.

We really welcome the Government’s initiative on the brownfield land fund, which has really helped us to unlock development, but section 106 or a replacement levy will not provide us in the north with sufficient resource to deal with the challenge of affordable housing. We need to go beyond that. That is part of the devolution ask that we will be making around how we might work more effectively with Homes England in delivering programmes—particularly on affordable housing, and particularly on affordable low-carbon or zero-carbon housing, which is a very significant challenge.

Laura Shoaf:

I mentioned earlier that one of the things we wanted to do in a trailblazer devolution deal was to look at how we can use the housing and brownfield funding that we have more flexibly, to address some of the wider regeneration challenges but also to help us to increase levels of affordable housing. The brownfield funding, as Eamonn said, has demonstrably made a difference in our ability to assemble sites, to remediate sites, to bridge the viability gap and then, ultimately, to do what we all want to do, which is to deliver more housing, affordable included.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Q Thank you. May I move on to the issue of viability appraisal, stacking up and being able to deliver projects? Clearly, there are multiple challenges with being able to deliver viable economic/residential projects, particularly in the north. What changes do you want to see to the Bill to make sure that such projects, which really do regenerate local communities, can be delivered?

Eamonn Boylan:

At the risk of repeating myself, one of the keys to unlocking significant urban regeneration is certainty of funding and confidence in the longevity of any funding source. I will use the example of Ancoats, which used to be a no-go area in Manchester but is now regarded by some as the coolest urban neighbourhood in western Europe. The platform for delivering that was laid by investing public money through derelict land grant 15 years before the major acceleration in housing development took place; the market took that time to recover post-recession and to move forward. It is not only the availability of resource; it is our ability to invest at the right time in order to trigger affordable and sustainable growth and leverage very significant private sector investment.

In answer to your question about whether we think there are places where the Bill could go further, we think the review of Green Book evaluation methodology needs to be pushed forward in order to take more account of some of the affordability and viability challenges we face. I have a long catalogue of projects in both housing and other areas where we have failed the Green Book benefit-cost ratio test at individual project level but not been allowed to apply it at the programme level, where overall we could have made it stack up. I think flexibility around the application of some of those rules would be really helpful in enabling us to move forward.

Joanne Roney:

May I can come in on the back of that to give an example? Ancoats, as Eamonn said, is one of the successes in Manchester. I am currently dealing with the north and the east of the city. The north of the city has 15,000 homes to be built across a range of sites involving a range of different Government Departments.

I completely support the idea that the Bill could go further in helping us with land assembly and doing more to encourage, through grants, brownfield land to be acquired and remediated, but there is also something about simplifying the process through a partnership with Homes England so that I do not have to produce a business case for Homes England, for the Treasury and to access individual grants. There has to be a more efficient way to do large-scale regeneration of swathes of land that needs to be brought back into use and put to greater purpose. That is key for the devolution asks for Greater Manchester, particularly in respect of that partnership with Homes England.

Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

Rachael, do you have any more questions?

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Q I have a couple more, if I may. On the planning changes proposed in the Bill, there is a sequencing around national infrastructure projects and local development plans. What do you consider to be the implications of the interruption of local development plans as a result of national infrastructure projects? What does that mean for your ability to pursue your housing and economic aspirations locally? I am talking about the Secretary of State’s powers.

Eamonn Boylan:

We have had to deal with sequential challenges in terms of development, control and planning for a number of years. It is fair to say that we would need to be reassured that there was sufficient cognisance of the timing of the planning of projects at a major or national level so that they can be properly accommodated in local plans and so that local plan considerations can inform the way in which those plans are brought together.

One thing in the Bill that is of slight concern to us is the reference to it being possible to have only one local plan at any one time. We have done a lot of work over the past six years to develop a spatial framework for all of Greater Manchester, incorporating nine of the 10 boroughs. That was supported by the development of local plans that were entirely consistent with it but overarchingly governed by that strategic framework. We just want to make certain that there is a transitional arrangement that will enable us to protect that position as we move ahead, because it has held us in good stead as we have moved forward over recent years.

Laura Shoaf:

I do not know that I have much to add. We do not have a regional spatial framework in the West Midlands and we are not a planning authority, so this might not be the best place for me to make a useful comment. Joanne might have a view.

Joanne Roney:

I am not sure that I disagree with anything Eamonn said. Broadly, we welcome the introduction of additional tools and powers that help us to deal with compliance and anything that can help existing sites to be built out. I think Eamonn has mainly covered the other points that I would have made about seeking the approach to continue to get the complexity out of the system, particularly in respect of the production of local plans.

Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

Are there any further questions before we move on to the next panel?

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I have a question about the infrastructure levy that touches on the issues that my colleague just raised. Does the panel have any thoughts on the ways in which, if it is at all, the proposed infrastructure levy is more beneficial than the current arrangement? I appreciate that lots of detail needs to be filled in, but how would you—I suppose this is directed to Eamonn and Laura—see the infrastructure levy operating, particularly on complex brownfield sites?Q

Eamonn Boylan:

One thing in the Bill that we very much welcome the principle of is the notion that the infrastructure levy is effectively extracted once value has been created. That will make it much easier to calculate an appropriate levy, particularly on a complex, multifaceted scheme.

The issue for us would be, if the income from the levy is delayed until after development has been completed, what are the arrangements that enable me to fund the infrastructure up front? That is needed to enable the development to take place in the first instance. It would need to be linked to the availability of things like the brownfield land release fund or, potentially, borrowing powers to enable us to invest in the infrastructure on the basis of a levy replenishing the borrowing at a later date. The principle is a good one, and I am sure it will be welcomed in the development community, but we need to find a way of making certain that it does not work in a way that prevents us delivering infrastructure in a timely way to enable schemes to come forward.

Laura Shoaf:

I reiterate that there is still a lot to unpack and still a lot to understand about what it will mean in practice. We keep coming back to certainty and simplicity being the two things that really help enable us to get big, new-generation projects off the ground. I reiterate Eamonn’s point: anything that can be leveraged into some sort of pump priming to help to give both certainty and consistency would be genuinely very welcome.

Joanne Roney:

I would just add that generally, across the UK, we are supportive of the infrastructure levy being non-negotiable, which is a strong statement to make, and of it being determined at a local level, which will take in those regional differences that Eamonn and I mentioned earlier—the viability in different places. There is a lot to welcome in this, but the detail needs to be worked through.

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Q I have a brief follow-up question for Eamonn. You said one of the potential advantages is that the levy is extracted at the point that the value has been created. Do you foresee any disputes arising between local planning authorities or combined authorities and developers as to valuation appraisals at that point in time? Will we get conflict at that point in time between the two sides over what the precise value is and therefore what the levy should be?

Eamonn Boylan:

I will not pretend to you, sir, that I can have absolute confidence that we will avoid disputes over valuation. We have it at the start of projects now and we have had it at different stages. It will be essential to have established prior to the signing of formal agreement with the developer or developers that we have an agreement on the valuation methodology to be used at the point at which the levy is to be calculated—to try to remove some of that risk. That is certainly what we would hope.

Joanne Roney:

I think the move to viability assessments increasingly being made public to planning committees helps to bring transparency and clarity to value early on in the discussions, as part of the planning process. We would want to build on that, so that we try to avoid those arguments. I am sure they will be there, but it is how they get resolved.

Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

As there are no further questions, I thank the witnesses for their evidence. We will move to the next panel: we have two witnesses virtually and two present in the room. If Members wish to remove their jackets, please feel free to do so.