Bonfire of vanities
When one of your own senior MPs describes a key policy as “botched” even this Coalition government, so single-minded and deaf to criticism, should think twice.
The House of Commons Public Administration Committee report into the handling of the government’s abolition of quangos is damning. It is clear that ideology, not practicality, drove the process. The MPs say it’s not even going to save any money.
Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more. This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the Big Society and save money at the same time, but it has been botched.”
The South West is a good example of how this will impact on people locally. The abolition of the Regional Development Agency (RDA) removes a proven asset to the South West economy which has brought in millions of pounds in investment. Just when we need strategic action in these tough times the region has been cut adrift.
Setting up the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) which are meant to replace some of the work of the RDA has been a shambles. In fact, 70% of the South West is not covered by an LEP. The two so far proposed, Cornwall and West of England, have excluded significant economic interests such as the workforce, unions and the voluntary sector, which had a voice and strong contribution on the former RDA.
The government therefore had to transfer the management of its key European development funds from the regional bodies. But this has been another botched process. They tried to push responsibility to a lead local authority, but in the words of the government department: “There has been no appetite from individual local authorities for taking on this role.” The government has looked to LEPs to take the lead but their boundaries don’t fit with the EU regional programmes. “The department also concluded that there was little to be gained by inviting one of its agencies to take on the administration.”So to avoid losing EU regional funding, new regional bodies are to be created but under the direct control of the Government, rather than based in the region. To maintain the pretence of the new ‘localism’ approach the new bodies will adopt the title Local Management Committees.
Also in the box marked “botched” is the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board. That removes a key safeguard for thousands of workers in the region, in an industry notorious for long hours and poor safety record.
Then there are the changes to the Forestry Commission which mean the transfer of powers to Ministers to sell off the country’s forests including the Forest of Dean. This is causing huge uproar in the Forest.
The Coalition’s arrogant actions have been criticised on all sides and now even senior MPs have added their voice. One wonders what it will take to make this government listen.