Headlines: December 9th, 2002

Lord Haskins and his review team from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have been given the task of bringing cohesion to the patchwork quilt of agencies delivering services to rural areas. The newly announced terms of reference make it clear that the key issue for speeding up improvements in rural services is how to get better joined up government.Defra was formed .last year through a merger which brought together responsibilities for the environment, agriculture fisheries and food to improve delivery of the Government’s rural policy agenda. In order to fulfill this commitment the department must find ways to eliminate the overlap and fill in the holes between the many bodies that deliver services in rural areas. They include Local Government, parish and town councils, the Countryside Agency, the Government Offices in English regions, the Regional Development Agencies, the Small Business Service, the Forestry Commission, English Nature, the National Parks and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty teams. Voluntary organisations are also involved in delivering rural services.

The review team have to come up with a blueprint to unify policy delivery by bringing better partnership working between all the agencies and to find ways of simplifying responsibilities and streamlining services so that resources can be used in a more focused way.

The interim report is due to be delivered by April 2003 and the final report to include recommendations for future action supported by a costed business case and a timetable of implementation by July 2003