What exactly does Andrew Stunell do?
Last week an interesting report was published by the Public Administration Select Committee arguing that the number of Government Ministers and those on the ‘payroll’ should be reduced. Whilst serious men like Peter Riddell took a stab at thinking through the implications of this we at WLLG decided to take a look at whether this might be a good idea in our favourite of Government departments; the DCLG.
Now, as many people will have noticed, we are neither scientists nor researchers nor politicians nor journalists and had it not been for Google I doubt we’d be able to comment on such a weighty topic. However, with the help of the internet we decided to run a small experiment. But which minister to choose?
Like him or not it is fairly obvious what Eric Pickles gets up to and both Grant Shapps and Greg Clark come across my radar fairly regularly. Bob Neill is obviously the junior partner in the team so was a possibility and there is Andrew Stunell, the Liberal Democrat in the team and the Communities Minister.
Having previously pondered during the Lib Dem conference how much impact Mr Stunell has on the DCLG I decided he would be the perfect Guinea Pig.
So, what exactly does Andrew Stunell do?
We started with the DCLG newsroom on the assumption that they will press release literally anything. According to their archive in the last month Mr Stunell has:
- Visited Perry Common Community Hall inBirmingham
- Visited Roadway Centre in Shepherds Bush
- Launched next year’s Green Flag Award application round
- Wished everyone a Happy Diwali
- Joined ex-footballer and sustainability campaigner Gary Neville inSheffieldto open a revolutionary ‘carbon negative’ office – a building that produces more energy than it consumes.
- Welcomed key appointments to the Building Regulations Committee
- Announced the September update to the Structural Reform Plan (including a scheme where community groups can bid for Government cash to bring empty homes into use)
And that was it.
Not much for a month’s work but if we judged people purely on press releases the world would be a very sad place. So what else has he got up to? Next we turn to Parliament.
When it comes to representing the Government inside of Westminster Mr Stunell certainly seems a tad busier. In the last month he has:
- Answered DCLG oral questions
- Responded to a debate on Business Rates in the North East
- Led a debate on the National Planning Policy Framework (presumably in partnership with Mr Shapps)
- Responded to a debate on Green Belt inEnglandand
- Answered a stack load of written questions (although my guess is he just signs them rather than writes them.
He has also been the Government’s representative of the lengthy Bill stages of the following Bills:
Although I don’t think they were last month.
And one final check: Google news. I got 30 responses although nothing above and beyond what is mentioned above save for a couple of articles within Lib Dem specific news-sheets and an article or two from his role as a constituency MP.
So, is this enough? Does Andrew Stunell represent value for money? Do we need him as a Minister?
To be totally honest I have no idea. This little exercise gave me more of a sense than I’ve ever had of what a Minister gets up to but even now I don’t really know of that’s what he should be doing.
He might spend hours working in the DCLG working on policy and sorting out issues behind closed doors. He might spend a lot of time working with councils and community groups behind the scenes, out of the spotlight but fixing problems before they appear. He might just be lazy. Even after playing with Google for an hour or two I don’t know.
However, I do hope that people who know more than me about these things might have an opinion or two based on the above research.
Despite my above puzzlement what I do know is that politics is about the people as well as the operation of Government and so far we’ve heard a lot from the Conservative side of the DCLG and could perhaps do with a little balance from those with a slightly different point of view.
My hope is, regardless of whether he’s a value for money Minister or not, that Mr Stunell acts as a little bit of a break on the worst excesses of his Tory colleagues.
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