PIU report slams regional policies

17 Feb 00
The government has been forced radically to revise its attempts to regenerate the regions after a damning report from its own Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) criticised Labour's approach as confusing and uncoordinated.

18 February 2000

Lord Falconer, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for the Dome, has been drafted in to head the new Regional Co-ordination Unit to improve the delivery of key policies.

French-style préfectures – which represent the state at regional and local level – could become the model for the nine government offices throughout England as ministers look to beef up their role.

But the government ruled out more radical action in the immediate future, such as increasing funding for the regional development agencies (RDAs) or extending regional government to England. However, it has conceded firm action is needed. 'The report shows that we need to do more to integrate the way different government departments currently operate in the regions,' said Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Reaching Out, published on February 16, castigates the government's approach for imposing 'unnecessary' management burdens and reducing effectiveness, especially in the poorest areas, and for the excessive number of schemes launched.

The approach of the nine government offices is dismissed as fragmented, and central departments are criticised for failing to assist local areas. Since the establishment of the RDAs, it is unclear which body is responsible for which initiative. Overall, the PIU claims the government has failed its own demands for a cross-cutting, joined-up approach to areas such as social exclusion, health and education zones.

'The clear evidence is that there are too many government initiatives, causing confusion, not enough co-ordination and too much time spent on negotiating the system rather than delivering,' says the report.

'This report confirms we can do things better,' admitted Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. But ministers denied there was a 'north/south' divide which demanded stronger government action.

Lord Falconer's unit will start work on April 1. It will try to co-ordinate government initiatives in the regions and encourage better working between government offices and regional partners.


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