IDA is set to shrink, warns incoming chief

13 May 10
The new head of the Improvement and Development Agency has told Public Finance that he intends to slash the size of the organisation by up to 40%, starting this year
By David Williams

14 May 2010

The new head of the Improvement and Development Agency has told Public Finance that he intends to slash the size of the organisation by up to 40%, starting this year.
 
In an exclusive interview with PF, Rob Whiteman, who takes over as chief executive on May 17, said the body would have to narrow its priorities.

‘Over the next year I will be looking at reducing the size of the IDA by 30%-40%,’ he said. ‘The IDA will have to streamline, become a smaller organisation and focus on fewer things… on the priorities that local government tells us it wants to work on.’

Around half of the body’s funding comes from a share of the Department for Communities and Local Government block grant to councils, which Whiteman estimates will be cut by 10%–15% by 2014. He also expects the organisation to receive less income from government contracts.

However, he also said he wanted the IDA to improve local government productivity and efficiency.  ‘As an accountant by background, I think you can always do more with less,’ Whiteman added.

The outgoing chief executive of the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham said he saw the IDA’s role as being part of a shift away from centralised inspection and towards greater council collaboration through sharing more services and expertise.

Whiteman also predicted a ‘more mature’ dialogue between local government and citizens over who provides services, citing the National Trust as a body that relies on volunteer staff.

Andy Sawford, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, cautioned that too little is already spent on improvement in local government, compared to inspection. ‘What we mustn’t do is cut back on those things that can support us through the difficult time ahead, like really good improvement support,’ he said. But, he added, central government-sponsored agencies such as the IDA should not have the monopoly on supplying expertise to councils.

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