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CRITICAL REPORT PROMPTS STREAMLINING OF REGIONAL INITIATIVES

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A regional co-ordination unit is to be set up to integrate the policy initiatives of various Whitehall departments ...
A regional co-ordination unit is to be set up to integrate the policy initiatives of various Whitehall departments in response to criticisms that the proliferation of schemes is creating a heavy bureaucratic burden and confusion on the ground.

A report by the cabinet office's performance and innovation unit has said that the large number of narrowly-focused government plans were inhibiting local authorities' ability to take joined-up, co-ordinated action.

In addition, The Financial Times (p6) reports that the nine government offices of the regions - set up by the Conservatives in the mid-1990s as a tentative step towards devolving elements of administration - are to be strengthened. They will co-ordinate activities on the ground.

The report said that too much time was spent 'negotiating the system, rather than delivering'. It illustrated the scale of the task facing ministers as they seek joined-up solutions to issues that cut across the responsibilities of individual government departments.

John Prescott, the environment secretary, admitted that the regional development agencies had complained to him about poor government co-ordination, and the report provided many examples of the problem.

It said: 'The tiers of central government that impact on the regional level are highly fragmented, not able to deal with cross-cutting issues well, and generally do not have sufficient influence over central policy design and implementation.

A panel is reviewing the Labour Party's regional policy ahead of the next general election, and will take proposals to this autumn's party conference.

It is likely to advocate retaining the existing cautious approach, which accepts the eventual possibility of elected assemblies in those English regions where there is sufficient public demand, while taking account of changes currently taking place in local government.

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