Mr. Gareth Thomas
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what action he is taking to improve the quality and range of applications for senior jobs in local government; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Leslie
The Government recognises and is taking steps to address the issue of recruitment and retention across the local government sector. I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 13 February 2003,Official Report, column 93W, which sets out the wider work the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is engaged in recruitment and retention in local government and raising its profile as a good choice of career. On 19 February 2003, My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) announced the full programme of Capacity Building initiatives and committed £27 million to help fund this work. This programme will help draw in top quality people by improving the attractiveness of the sector as a potential employer, and ensure the long term development of effective senior management.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is working closely with the Employers' Organisation (EO) on the development of key parts of this programme. This will complement the work already being undertaken by the EO into recruitment of senior management. This includes: a consultancy service to support local authorities recruit at senior levels; a comprehensive guide to recruiting senior posts, due to be published in April 2003; and a research project to identify the main barriers to recruiting senior management to inform future work.