MPs savage government department

By staff

Various critical policies will fail unless the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) becomes one of the government’s “big hitters”, a committee of influential MPs concluded today.

It described delivery of policies as “patchy” and highlighted accounting errors which led to hefty fines from the European Commission (EC) as major sources of difficulty.

In addition to the £19.8 million fine already imposed by the EC, another £8 million will be disallowed and the DCLG expects a further £73 million of possible further losses.

“We trust that the ongoing improvements which the department has made will ensure that no more badly needed funding disappears as a result of the incompetence and mismanagement which characterised these programmes,” said committee chair Dr Phyllis Starkey.

“There is still further to go in order to meet the challenges ahead.”

The committee highlighted the DCLG’s eco-towns policy was particularly wayward and described the gap between original and present plans as “considerable”.

It said the ambition to create 100,000 eco-homes was highly unlikely to succeed, citing the department’s failure in “engaging and enthusing its delivery partners” as the cause.

The committee was pleased with the DCLG’s policies for dealing with flooding but said they could do more to improve response times to fires, saying speed of response still affects 20 percent of cases where death occurs after an emergency call is made.

It cited the FiReControl policy to amalgamate fire control rooms into regional centres and the Firebuy scheme attempting to create a national procurement body for the service as “failure consistently to base policy making and delivery on the evidence”.

The committee said the mishandling of home information packs is evident and noted it is still struggling to perfect the scheme while the housing market robust and effective initiatives

“This savaging by the Labour party’s own backbenchers is a vote of no confidence in the government’s record,” said Caroline Spelman, shadow communities secretary.

“There is a litany of failure across the government’s flagship programmes from home information packs, to eco-towns to its own internal management.”

The communities and local government select committee is a cross party group.