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Regions White Paper

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made by his Department towards the aim in the White Paper, "Your Region, Your Choice", of encouraging applicants to public bodies from all parts of England; and what change there has been in the geographical diversity of appointees to NDPBs and other public bodies sponsored by his Department since the publication of the White Paper. [108559]

Public appointments for the Home Department are advertised through a number of wide and varied media. Vacancies are now advertised on the Cabinet Office website, in addition to the Department's own website. National mainstream press, as well as targeted publications aimed at encouraging applicants from ethnic minorities, are also used on a regular basis.

The Home Office does not compile data on geographical diversity. The information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress his Department has made towards the aim in the White Paper, "Your Region, Your Choice", of assessing the balance of staff between the centre and the regions in terms of effective policy design and implementation; and what examples there have been since the publication of the White Paper of the Department deciding between locating new streams of work (a) in and (b) outside London and the south-east. [108572]

The Home Office is committed to ensuring that it has the right balance between the centre and the regions to develop and deliver its aims. The Home Office has developed a substantial regional delivery capacity in Government offices, which are committed to delivering key Home Office Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets. In particular, Crime Reduction teams and Drug Prevention Advisory Service, and dedicated staff working to promote racial equality, community cohesion and active communities are an essential part of our delivery mechanism as well as contributing to policy development. Links between the centre and Government offices are being strengthened by the recruitment of four Crime Reduction Delivery Managers, working to enhance delivery of Home Office PSA targets on a regional and local basis.The Immigration and Nationality Directorate already has a substantial regional presence, in particular with large offices in Liverpool and Sheffield. The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is establishing 12 regional offices in order to strengthen links between NASS, local partnerships and the communities they serve. On 1 April 2003 the Security Industry Authority was established as an Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) with headquarters in London, but it is planning a number of regional offices.New work streams have been established outside London. The Criminal Records Bureau was established in Liverpool in 2001. The new Local Criminal Justice Boards will be supported by locally based Performance Officers who will be managed by seven Performance Advisers, mostly based outside London.The Home Office will contribute to Sir Michael Lyons' review of departmental structures to examine the scope for relocating civil service and other public service staff from London and the south-east to other parts of the country, to improve cost effectiveness and achieve a better regional balance of Government activity.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress the Department has made towards the goal set out in the White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice, of (a) ensuring that regional awareness and devolution feature strongly in civil service training and development, (b) increasing the mobility of civil servants between headquarters offices, regional offices, and the Government Offices and (c) encouraging interchange between the civil service and organisations in the regions. [108582]

(a) The Home Office is committed to using regional and local structures to deliver its agenda and is developing a training strategy to integrate an understanding of devolution and regional government issues into existing training programmes. We also have a programme of awareness raising and increasing understanding of the regions and the Government Offices for staff, which included a Regional Coordination Unit/Home Office seminar in March 2003.

(b) Posts within Home Office regional structures are advertised to all staff; posts within Government offices may be trawled within the Department. (c)The Home Office has an active interchange programme that covers all sectors of the economy, public, private and voluntary. Interchange with Government Offices and the regions forms part of this programme, and we have recently established a number of short attachments for staff between Government Offices and the Home Office. In addition, a major scheme due to be launched shortly involves encouraging all staff to buddy up with staff in other organisations with whom they work, or who are affected by their work, including Government Offices and local authorities. It will enable staff in both organisations to learn more about one another, and about how they work together in delivering shared aims.