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Government Agencies

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his policy on the role of devolving Government agencies to the regions as a tool of regeneration. [120739]

The Government recognise that decisions made at the regional level can take better account of the unique opportunities and challenges faced by an individual region. This can lead to improvements both for the region in question and the country as a whole.The Government have already begun to implement its strategy of decentralisation, strengthening the regional tier to provide the catalysts for growth in every region. In particular:The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has created eight Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the London Development Agency to promote economic development and regeneration in the regions. The RDAs have significant powers, funding and flexibility to allow them to develop and deliver tailored economic strategies to secure better and more sustainable economic performance and regeneration for their region;The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has encouraged and facilitated the creation of voluntary, multi-party regional chambers in all of the English regions (outside London), made up of local authority and other stakeholder representatives, to contribute to regional economic strategies and scrutinise their delivery. All eight chambers will take on the role of the regional planning body for their region, ensuring closer integration with other regional strategies, in particular the regional economic strategy;

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has improved the delivery of central Government activity in the English regions by bringing more responsibilities into the ambit of the Government Offices for the Regions, and by strengthening the capacity of these offices;

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has strengthened the role of local authorities, for example, through the introduction of Business Planning Zones, and more generally, through the Government's localism agenda;

A Rural Affairs Forum, supported by eight regional forums, has been formed to bring together rural stakeholders to contribute to the development of rural policies at national level;

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has recently announced that regional housing boards will be established in England, involving key stakeholders in the region;

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced on 16 June 2003 that the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber would proceed towards referendums for elected assemblies. Assemblies will have powers to make a difference in key areas such as jobs, planning, housing, transport, culture and environment. Their block grant will give them freedom to allocate spending according to regional priorities. Regional Development Agencies will be accountable to their elected assemblies;

In his 2003 Budget speech, the Chancellor asked Sir Michael Lyons, Professor of Public Policy at Birmingham University, to make recommendations for the relocation of civil service and other public sector workers in the light of the need to improve delivery and efficiency of public services, and the regional balance of economic activity. This review will take account of updated Government departmental pay and work force strategies. Sir Michael Lyons will make his recommendations by the end of the year, in time to inform the next Spending Review. These actions will strengthen the building blocks for economic growth and regeneration in all regions and give the regions powers to address their particular needs.