The torrent of area based initiatives such as health and education action zones has produced a co-ordination nightmare. Local authorities, with a responsibility for community leadership are suffering from the bureaucratic burden of initiatives conceived and managed separately by individual central Government Departments. The Performance and Innovation Unit in its report ‘Reaching Out: The role of Central Government At Regional and Local Level’ paints a depressing picture of non joined- up government.The Unit’s Review Team found initiatives that affect the same people, such as children, are run separately and not linked in any way. They also found that the number and extent of narrowly focused plans required by central Government from local authorities is inhibiting their ability to take joined-up co-ordinated action.
A major weakness of the current structure is that there is poor central Government co-ordination at regional and local level. In theory this is the role of the Government Offices for the Regions, but currently they cannot fulfil it. The Offices, founded in 1994, are made up from representative of DETR, DTI and DfEE and other departments often fail to consult on new initiatives. The report holds back from telling the other departments including Department of Health, Home Office, MAFF, DSS and the Lord Chancellor’s Department to join in the Regional Offices, but urges them to review arrangements for securing closer links.
The status and influence of the Regional Offices is to be beefed up by the creation of a central unit to ensure better co-ordination of policy initiatives and to rationalise requirements for local authorities to produce plans. The Regional Co-ordination Unit will be headed by Cabinet Office Minister Lord Falconer, who will report to the Deputy Prime Minister.