HC Deb 09 June 2004 vol 422 cc410-1W
Mr. Stephen O'Brien

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps are being taken to reduce the administrative load on regional development agencies. [174698]

Jacqui Smith

We have to strike the right balance between giving England's Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) the freedom they need to operate effectively and ensuring that public money is spent sensibly and without undue risks. We are continually improving arrangements for funding and tasking RDAs and monitoring their performance.

As noted in a recent report by the National Audit Office, "Success in the Regions", much has been done to streamline funding arrangements for the RDAs, for example the introduction of the single budgetary framework in April 2002, which has allowed the RDAs much greater spending flexibility.

The NAO report made 10 recommendations to streamline processes and enable the RDAs to get on with the business of encouraging economic development while providing Departments with the information and levels of public accountability that they need. Working with the RDAs and other Departments, the Department of Trade and Industry is working to implement all of these recommendations, including the NAO's main recommendation, simplification of the RDAs' tasking framework to achieve closer alignment with the Regional Economic Strategies produced by the RDAs and relevant Public Service Agreement targets. Action has already been completed on some recommendations, for example, Government offices' reports to the DTI on the RDAs' performance now take place every six months as recommended.