Memorandum by David Arculus, Chair, Better
Regulation Task Force (GRI 21)
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF GOVERNMENT REGENERATION
The Better Regulation Task Force published in
July 2002 a report on the local delivery of central policy. We
did not look specifically at area-based initiatives, so our input
to this inquiry is restricted to general principles of how the
Government should decide to introduce area-based initiatives.
As a first principle we believe that Government
should first consider whether the initiative is needed at all.
The Government should look at what is in place alreadycould
it do the job? Working within the framework of what is already
in place should always be the preferred option.
Any new area-based initiative will need to be
properly joined up and co-ordinated with other initiatives going
on in the area. This means that those introducing the initiative
need to involve the Regional Co-ordination Unit in the Office
of the Deputy Prime Minister at the earliest stage of policy development.
The Regional Co-ordination Unit has been set up to ensure better
co-ordination of policy initiatives with a regional or local impact.
It can only do so if Government Departments involve it at the
earliest stage of their thinking. The Better Regulation Task Force
has recommended in its review that the Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister should report by July 2003 on the operation and achievements
of the Regional Coordination Unit's gatekeeper function with proposals
for strengthening it if necessary.
New initiatives should be introduced only after
effective trialling. Implementation should not take place until
after the lessons from the trials can be learnt. But nor should
old structures be abolished until new arrangements are in place.
We found in our review that this is not always the case. For instance
we found that the abolition of National Training Organisations
in March 2002 left a vacuum while the new Sector Skills Councils
were being rolled out gradually and trialled. This has left some
sectors without any training bodies.
Communication to stakeholders about changes
is vital. If stakeholders are not clear what the initiative is
aiming to achieve, or how to apply to benefit from it, it will
not succeed. This sounds obvious, but we did find that communication
with stakeholders about new initiatives was often poor.
It is good practice to assess the likely impact
of any new initiative. A Regulatory Impact Assessment is a good
way of assessing impacts on various stakeholders. It can also
bring out at an early stage any unforeseen and unintended consequences.
Where an area-based initiative involves setting
up a new body or relaunching an existing body, we would caution
against moving in haste. It may look attractive politically but
we have found it can lead to confusion on the ground. For instance
the replacement of the Training and Enterprise Councils with the
Learning and Skills Councils was viewed by local stakeholders
as having been carried out too rapidly, with insufficient trialling
and without adequate communication of what the change meant for
business and other key stakeholders.