Last update 15th. May 2004



Dear Janet,

Thanks for your email.

I agree that our comments shouldn't be destructive and that we should speak directly to both CIDA and the Commission. At the same time, I think that there is a lot of value in dialogue between ourselves to see where there is emerging consensus.

I can't speak for anybody else but I have no agenda for changing the FSO at this time. It is my impression that CIDA has good days and bad days. In any case, my view is that it is the Commission that is more important as it sets the terms in which the FSOs work. As your email underlines, the relationships are unfortunately not transparent.

It is a strange state of affairs for independent statutory bodies to be provided with essential services by agencies over which they have no control. I know of no precedent for the arrangement for Forums anywhere else in public services in the UK but I might be corrected on that point. CIDA didn't create this structure. The Commission did. There was no legal obligation for them to set it up in the way they did. I don't think it can be changed overnight but I wouldn't be very happy to accept it as a given.

I agree with you that individual Forums must establish their own priorities and their own rules of engagement. We should share these between Forums so that we are not constantly re-inventing the wheel.

At the same time, we have shared interests in a number of areas that matter a lot which we cannot deal with solely at a single forum level:

We need to operate at more than one level. Of course, these issues could be put onto the backburner given all that we need to do at the individual Forum level. Obviously, there is a balance to be struck but the Commission and FSO practice directly affect our ability to deliver in the short term. We could work separately as Forums on these issues but from what I've seen so far in meetings and welcome days, the Commission likes playing a bit of divide and rule as a way of deflecting real concerns. Working together where we can may save some time and get some useful progress for what individual Forums are able to do.

All part of the debate.

Good Wishes

Hilary Barnard