HC Deb 10 June 1999 vol 332 cc765-6
2. Mr. John Healey (Wentworth)

What assessment he has made of the role of local authorities in the planning and delivery of the pilots for the single work-focused gateway. [85394]

The Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities (Mr. Andrew Smith)

Local authorities have been encouraged to be full partners in the new one service. They are represented on the national project team and on local implementation teams. Due to the demanding time scales to which we are working to get the pilots up and running in June and November, it made sense to allow for the phasing in of the councils' service involvement, but some council staff, premises and functions will be involved from day 1 and their contribution is invaluable.

Mr. Healey

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that the Education and Employment Select Committee recently took evidence from the Local Government Association on our inquiry into the single work-focused gateway? Is he aware that, while the LGA strongly supports the ambition of the one service, it told us of the pilots whose participants felt that they had been invited to join the train but that it had already left the station and was 2 miles down the track? In the light of that, will my right hon. Friend explain what efforts have been made to ensure that local authority staff have been open to recruitment as one service advisers? Are there any local authority sites from which the one service will be delivered in the pilot areas?

Mr. Smith

Not only has the association been invited to join the train, it is on the train. The LGA is fully involved. Local authority staff have been encouraged to apply for jobs as personal advisers in the new one service and a number have already been appointed. Yes, local authority premises will be used from day one, including in some towns where there has been no access to benefit and employment services. As I said in my earlier answer, there will be an opportunity for councils to pace the extension of their involvement over time—something that the councils very much wanted—so that it accords with their own priorities. Also, discussions on resourcing are taking place so that local authorities will be resourced in relation to their involvement on the same basis as the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service.

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