By Chris Leslie and Nick Hope.
The Government’s Regional Ministers should be given new powers and status according to a report from the New Local Government Network. It calls for Regional Ministers to be appointed full time Ministers of State. Currently Regional Ministers have no official support for their role and have to combine it with their other ministerial duties.
Regional Ministers were first announced in June 2007 and there are currently eight serving in the English regions. The NLGN report is also calling for Government Offices for the Regions to be slimmed down and turned into the secretariat for each region’s Ministers.
The report also advocates sweeping reforms to the way Whitehall departments operate with regional and local government. It’s recommendations include reform of Public Service Agreements and departmental Capability Reviews and merging together the Audit Commission and National Audit Office.
The report argues that Whitehall departments need to adapt to the challenges of delivering modern public services and should develop a more strategic, less interventionist role. The report also encourages reform of the civil service recruitment process including the establishment of a new National Public Service Fast Stream scheme for graduates and insisting that senior civil servants have some experience of working within local government.
The report argues that whilst local authorities are expected to comply with a number of formal duties, central Government should mirror this process by introducing a new “duty to devolve” on Whitehall departments. This duty could become a ‘devolutionary test’ in the parliamentary and legislative process.
Challenging Perspectives is available from the Network. http://www.nlgn.org.uk