I am today announcing a series of changes I will be making to the operation and delivery of the socio-economic elements of the rural development programme for England 2007-13 (RDPE), which are currently delivered by the regional development agencies.
Future responsibility for delivery of support for farming and forestry competitiveness, diversification of the rural economy and rural quality of life under axes 1 and 3 of the RDPE, and for management of the community-led Leader approach, will transfer from the eight existing RDAs to DEFRA. This will ensure continuity and consistency of delivery for customers, and compliance with the relevant European regulations.
As responsibility transfers to DEFRA, I shall be looking to move as quickly as possible towards a more consistent national approach to delivery of the programme, with a clear focus on the Government’s priorities for farming and forestry competitiveness and the needs of rural areas: managed nationally and delivered in a way which provides locally accessible support. So I have decided that we should aim to locate the RDPE teams in their existing towns or cities initially where that is cost-effective. In order to ensure as smooth a transition as possible, I will be introducing changes to the administration of the programme on a staggered basis from 1 July. These will deliver a more consistent national approach and efficiency savings for the taxpayer, including moving away from existing regions as the key governance tier.
We will engage further with stakeholders and customers about changes to the programme, building on the existing programme governance at the regional and national levels.
I have now informed RDAs of their indicative budget allocations for 2011-12. I am pleased that, following the spending review, we are able to continue to deliver funding under axes 1 and 3 and Leader over the remainder of the programme period. But budgets are constrained and I have asked RDAs to ensure the funding available is focused on delivering against our key priorities for competitiveness and rural areas, while also beginning the process of putting in place the new nationally consistent approach to delivery in 2011-12. RDAs will inform applicants and local action groups of the position within their region. Customers should continue to remain in touch with their existing contacts within the RDAs for further information about the position on individual projects or applications.