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Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported to parliament today that Regional Development Agencies have performed well in their first four years. In order to build on this success the relationship between RDAs and government must continue to evolve. The aim of the reports recommendations is to streamline bureaucracy and enable RDAs to get on with the business of encouraging economic development.

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The National Audit Office found that targets set for RDAs do not always match Regional Economic Strategies, Government Public Service Agreements or the targets of RDAs partners. Many of the targets are not properly measured because of a lack of data making it hard to assess the long term impact of RDAs work.

Government departments have improved the process for approving projects and RDAs have improved their own appraisals. Considerable progress has been made in the quality of project appraisal by bringing together all the advice and guidance given to RDAs and streamlining the approval process. These steps have increased the speed of project appraisals. But, while there has been some progress, more should be done to reduce duplication in the processes of different funding providers. RDAs on their own will soon be able to approve projects worth up to 10m, compared to 5m when the National Audit Office began its work.

The Department of Trade and Industry, the sponsoring department for the RDAs, needs to continue to work with other departments and the RDAs to manage more tightly the bureaucratic burden faced by RDAs in their interactions with many other government departments. Departments should pay more attention to Regional Economic Strategies especially when making policy and setting targets so that there is a better fit between regional and national priorities.

"I applaud the work done so far by Regional Development Agencies and the work done by the DTI to reduce the burdens on them. This report will better enable them to carry out their important business and it provides case examples from which RDAs and government can learn. I intend to work closely with them in the future to ensure that the full benefits of my recommendations are realised."

Sir John Bourn


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