This study has assessed the eight Regional Assemblies in England over the period from spring 2004 to the end of 2005. The report sets out the main findings on progress, issues, and achievements of the Assemblies over this period.Scrutiny of the Regional Development Agencies by members of the Regional Assemblies is identified as the key issue that must be addressed for the Assemblies to succeed. There is a fundamental difference of view about what scrutiny is for. Many Assembly members consider it should be a process of “holding the RDA to account”, whilst others adopt a broader definition of scrutiny; one with a focus on developing the regional evidence base, enhancing shared understanding of key issues, and joining up policy and informing an integrated approach to delivery.
The report concludes that assemblies should reserve the right to offer constructive, evidence-based criticism of the RDA, but there are limits to the “holding to account” approach. It can lead to a form of scrutiny that is adversarial and questioning and to recommendations based on anecdote and opinion rather than robust evidence. It can also lead to confusion with and duplication of other mechanisms for external monitoring of RDA performance. It often fails to recognize that RDAs’ primary accountability is to Parliament via ministers.