Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1095 - 1099)




  1095. Could I welcome everyone to the Committee and in particular, our witness for this session, Lord Falconer. We wanted to explore with Lord Falconer some of the issues to do with the co-ordination of Government programmes, particularly between the national level and the regional and local level for which you have acquired, amongst all your other responsibilities, responsibility. We may stray into other territory but that is our main focus.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sure.

  1096. Thank you for coming along. Would you like to say something by way of introduction?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Very briefly. The Committee has expressed interest in particular in Government Offices and regional co-ordination, though I think that your interest in co-ordination may go beyond simply the Government Offices and the Regional Co-ordination Unit. I hope that you have seen copies of the Action Plan that the Regional Co-ordination Unit produced last October. It may help if I just say a very few words about the Regional Co-ordination Unit and its approach. A Performance and Innovation Unit Report about the role of Central Government at regional and local level was published in February of last year. In a nutshell that Report suggested we were not making enough of the opportunity offered by Government Offices. We accepted the recommendations of the Report and I was given responsibility for following it through. The core of the Regional Co-ordination Unit was established in April of last year. This stepped up a gear when it had a Director-General appointed, who is Rob Smith, who is there, who was appointed in mid July, and the Action Plan was produced in October. The core work of the Unit is to integrate Government Offices more effectively, both with other regional representatives in central Government and with the development of policy in Whitehall. In both respects we believe that the Government Office had been an under-used resource for quite some time. We are getting on with establishing Government Offices as broader based representatives of Government in the regions. For example, next month MAFF officials will join Government Offices for the first time. I think the Committee has been to visit a Government Office in the North East.

  1097. We have.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Or the Government Office of the North East. A series of other initiatives such as the Connexions Service, which is trying to bring together people who are involved in problem young people, are also joining the Government Offices and Government Offices will also have a key role in the new Neighbourhood Renewal Policy and in dealing with local government. The other task, apart from developing the role of Government Offices, the unit has been given is better co-ordination of area-based initiatives. We are acutely conscious that many positive initiatives can make competing over-bureaucratic demands on local partners. Our intention is to link up initiatives and simplify their management structures. Our first step has been to establish arrangements which ensure that any new initiatives are only developed after consultation with the Government Offices and with the Regional Co-ordination Unit. That is something the Performance and Innovation Report recommended but it is only the beginning. Both before and after the publication of the Action Plan we have been getting out and about talking to interested parties both in Whitehall and at the receiving end, at regional and sub-regional level. These common sense proposals have met with general support and in my view represent a sensible way of modernising and joining up the way Government works. Not only are we joining up activity in the regions but that process hopefully is percolating back to Whitehall. It complements initiatives taken at the centre to promote joint working.

  1098. Thank you very much for that. So we are up to speed I see looking at the speech you gave. I read all your speeches.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You may be the only person who does!

  1099. In a speech you gave on this in June last year, you say "We are further committed to having the main new arrangements coming out of the PIU Report in place by April 2001".
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.

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