Regeneration body rapped

22 Jun 00
The costs and benefits of projects run by regeneration bodies should be independently audited in future, according to the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

23 June 2000

English Partnerships, an agency of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions that oversaw regeneration schemes, was criticised for failing to monitor the outcome of projects and giving out inaccurate information about the benefits they yielded.

The committee found that the weaknesses identified in English Partnerships 'pointed strongly to the need for independent validation' of the monitoring systems inherited from it by the eight Regional Development Agencies, which took over most of its work in April 1999.

The agency, which was responsible between April 1994 and April 1999 for bringing derelict, vacant and underused land and buildings in England back into use to support the regeneration of local economies and communities, had taken too long to develop reliable systems to gauge the success of its schemes, the committee concluded.

In May 1999 the agency's functions were merged with the Commission for the New Towns, with the combined body retaining the name English Partnerships.

Out of 27 projects, 'English Partnerships had followed up only two to check that the expected outputs had been delivered, and the agency's estimates of jobs created were four times greater than those actually created,' the report said.

The agency also failed to take proper account of other sources of funding when assessing project applications for value for money, the committee concluded. When the total cost of a scheme was calculated, including grants from other bodies, it was found that one new job cost on average £23,000 to create instead of English Partnerships' benchmark of £10,000.

David Davis, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said proper monitoring systems and external scrutiny were needed to ensure that public confidence in regeneration projects would be maintained.

'Regeneration initiatives are very welcome, but as with all public spending, judgements must be based on hard fact. The benefits of each project should outweigh the total costs or, if not, the extent of public subsidy should be transparent.'


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