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GOVERNMENT STRENGTHENS ITS ROLE IN THE REGIONS

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A new unit to co-ordinate and deliver key policies in the regions was ...
A new unit to co-ordinate and deliver key policies in the regions was

announced today by deputy prime minister John Prescott.

The new regional co-ordination unit reflects the government's

determination to focus on the local impact of its initiatives, and

implements a key conclusion from a hard-hitting report by the

cabinet office's performance and innovation unit (PIU). The

government has accepted all of the report's conclusions.

Prime minister Tony Blair said:

'This report shows that we need to do more to integrate the way

different government departments currently operate in the regions.

This is why I asked John Prescott to set up a new unit to co- ordinate effectively government policies in the regions.

'I am confident that the new unit, with Lord Falconer as its head,

reporting to the deputy prime minister, will improve the delivery of

the government's policies in the regions.'

The PIU's report Reaching Out: The Role of Central Government at

Regional and Local Level concludes that new arrangements are needed

to promote better co-ordination of key policies on issues such as

regeneration, education, competitiveness, health and crime.

The main conclusions of the report are:

- Stronger and higher profile government offices in the regions

covering all government policies affecting local areas are needed.

The government offices will be accountable for ensuring effective

co-ordination of policies.

- Better ministerial and Whitehall co-ordination of policy

initiatives and communication with government offices through the

creation of the regional co-ordination unit.

- Greater focus on strategic outcomes of central government

initiatives affecting local areas, with success judged against

these.

- That this year's government spending review should look at the

linking of area initiatives as a priority.

- A close working relationship between government and regional

development agencies.

Endorsing the report, Mr Prescott said:

'This report makes clear that we must ensure that co-ordination

between different departments is more streamlined and focused. Our

emphasis on combating social exclusion is an excellent example of

how important it is to work across departments to tackle problems

covering health, education, the local environment, crime and family

welfare.

'A key way of achieving this is by strengthening the role of

government offices in the regions and giving them more flexibility,

so that they will be able more effectively to co-ordinate policies

on the ground. By providing the focus for all Departments whose

work bears upon the English regions, this unit will help us deliver

a better service for local people and their communities.

'These improvements in the way government does business will

complement the performance of the RDAs.'

The main functions of the new unit will be to:

- Co-ordinate the delivery of central government's initiatives in the

regions including those affecting local areas.

- Secure more integrated initiatives on the ground, especially

through promoting the use of government offices by Whitehall

departments.

- Encourage better working between the government offices and other

regional and local partners.

- Manage the corporate functions of the government offices.

The core of the new unit will be established from 1 April. The unit

will bring together the interests of a range of departments. Its

first task will be to devise and implement an action plan for taking

forward the PIU report's conclusions.

Welcoming his new role, Lord Falconer said:

'This report is an excellent analysis of the problems facing service

deliverers. We now need to tackle the way in which different

departments operate in the regions and affect the same local areas.

Equally important will be the better co-ordination of Departments'

regional activities at the centre, which is why I am looking forward

to my new role in control of the new unit.

'In last year's Modernising Government White Paper we committed

ourselves to improving the business of policy-making by ensuring

that different parts of government worked together to deliver the

government's strategic objectives.

'Co-ordinating government initiatives and getting proper feedback are

essential if we are to tackle the big issues like sustainable

development, reducing social exclusion and promoting

competitiveness, all of which cut across departmental

responsibilities at the regional and local level.'

NOTES

1. Copies of the report, Reaching Out: The Role of Central

Government at Regional and Local Level will be published on the internet at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/innovation

2. Other copies of the report are available from The Stationery

Office on 0870 600 5522, ISBN 0-11-430163-8.

3. The Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) is

designed to help government tackle strategic issues that cut across

the boundaries of Whitehall departments. It is part of the

government's drive for more joined-up policy making and reports

direct to the prime minister through the cabinet secretary,

Richard Wilson.

4. Government offices in the regions were established in 1994 through

the amalgamation of the regional offices of the departments of

employment, trade and industry, environment and transport. At

present their role is mainly confined to these areas.

5. John Denham, minister of state at the Ddepartment of health, was

sponsor minister for the report. In this role he was responsible

for the general direction of the PIU study.

6. The PIU was able to use findings from research commissioned by the

DETR in their study. The DETR research, Co-ordination of Area Based

Initiatives: Research Working Paper, is published today and explores

how area based regeneration initiatives can work together. It is

available from DETR Publication Sales Centre Tel: 01709 891318,

price£10.

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