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Regional Organisation

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 8 May 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the management review of his Department's regional organisation.

Following a detailed study of my Department's regional organisation I propose to bring it into line with present-day needs by reducing the number of regions from seven to five and the number of divisions from 25 to 19. I am arranging for maps showing the proposed new structure to be placed in the Vote Office. A more uniform structure of larger divisions is needed to allow for more delegation of responsibility greater specialisation and flexibility to deploy staff in response to changing needs. The responsibilities of divisions need to be distinguished more clearly for those of regions; and fewer regions will be required to manage them. Steps will also be taken to enhance the responsibilities of local managers and improve the co-ordination of the Ministry's services to the public. I propose accordingly to merge the land drainage service with the land service, to place the plant health and seeds inspectorate under regional management and to bring the field veterinary service more into line with the general divisional structure.I intend to introduce these measures progressively over the next year or so in full consultation with representatives of the Ministry's staff. The proposed new structure is designed to reflect farming considerations with the minimum of disturbance to existing offices and the service they provide. Where regional offices are closed, divisional offices will take their place and laboratory and specialist advisory services will continue to be provided. Where divisional offices are closed they will be replaced by area offices for ADAS services. Existing area offices will in general be retained. I expect the reorganisation to save about 400 posts or about £4 million a year, mainly from economies of scale in administration and office services.I am glad of this opportunity to express my appreciation of the evidence contributed by many interested bodies to the review; and to pay tribute to the service my staff have given in the past. I believe that the reorganisation will help them to carry on the good work.