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Minister confirms new network of government offices

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The business department is to establish a new network of six government offices for the regions just six months after Eric Pickles axed the regional offices, business minister Mark Prisk has confirmed.

As first revealed in LGC, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (DBIS) is developing plans for six new regional government offices, to be called Local BIS, with the locations yet to be determined.

Last year communities secretary Eric Pickles said the regional offices were part of the “command and control apparatus of England’s over-centralised state” and were neither “efficient, effective or popular”.

But in response to a parliamentary question, Mr Prisk said DBIS has recognised it was “important” to have “a policy presence outside of Whitehall so that the department could communicate effectively with local enterprise partnerships, businesses and other organisations”.

He said: “The network is still in the early stages of development, but it is expected there will be six small teams in different parts of the country. The teams will support BIS’s overall objectives, particularly those relating to growth, jobs and rebalancing the economy.”

Mr Prisk did not say how many staff would be transferred from the existing government offices to the new network.

He added that the new Local BIS offices would not have responsibilities for the delivery and management of the European Regional Development Fund, which would be managed by the Department for Communities & Local Government.

However, he said DBIS officials, “including those from the BIS local offices in the regions”, would sit on the reformed ERDF programme monitoring committees in each region.

A senior DCLG official told LGC that the mpve from DBIS had come amid a growing recognition within Whitehall that the decision to scrap the regional offices was a “disaster”.

“Whitehall will no longer be able to get independent local intelligence … It’ll make policy more centralised, not less,” the official said.

 

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