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Rural Affairs

Public Update on implementation of Lord Haskins’ Rural Delivery Review - Recommendations 1-9

Improve accountability through a clearer separation of responsibility for policy and delivery functions (Recommendations 1-9)

  • Recommendation 1: Defra should review its rural policy remit in order to ensure that it is consistently understood by all concerned, including those who deliver its policies.
  • Recommendation 2: Defra's prime responsibility should be the development of policy, and it should arrange for the delivery of its policies through national, regional and local agencies. Policy and delivery functions should be managed separately so that accountability for policy and delivery is clearly defined.
  • Recommendation 3: The separation of policy and delivery functions should oblige Defra to consult delivery organisations at the earliest stages in policy formulation and to ask the latter to put forward proposals for the effective delivery of policy. In this way delivery organisations will be more accountable for effective management of programmes, and there should be less duplication of existing regional and local schemes. Defra will continue to appoint members of the various boards and to hold them accountable for their performance.
  • Recommendation 4: Defra policy officials should develop a good understanding of delivery issues through a programme of training and secondments to delivery organisations. An understanding of delivery issues must be given higher priority in the assessment of individual performance. Secondments and Recruitment from delivery organisations should also be encouraged in order to improve mutual understanding.
  • Recommendation 5: Deliverers should agree targets with Defra, working with the Treasury, rather than having unrealistic ones imposed on them from Whitehall. This would include Defra’s rural Public Service Agreement. In this way delivery organisations will accept greater ownership of these targets, which will be more achievable and less vulnerable to manipulation. There should be greater emphasis on setting rural targets that are linked to real outcomes rather than outputs (such as the number of grants processed).
  • Recommendation 6: Delivery organisations should have the maximum flexibility to allocate resources in the most effective ways, whilst keeping the necessary discipline over administrative costs.
  • Recommendation 7: Defra should agree shared targets with other Government Departments (OGDs) and their delivery organisations in order to secure better delivery of its rural policy objectives. This will substantially strengthen Defra's ability to influence outcomes.
  • Recommendation 8: Defra should improve the quality of its management information in order to take better informed decisions and to control the administrative costs associated with the schemes and services that it funds.
  • Recommendation 9: In pursuit of the objectives of separating policy from delivery and of devolving delivery, the functions of the Countryside Agency should be transferred to the appropriate specialist organisations.  Thus:
    • policy development (including the commissioning of pilots and demonstration projects), together with the promotion of rural proofing, would pass to Defra and the Government Offices;
    • social and economic programmes would pass to regional and local networks of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), local authorities and the voluntary and community sector;
    • environmental, landscape, access and Recreational programmes would pass to the new, integrated agency proposed below (see Rec. 16);
    • review of rural proofing, challenge and external advice would pass to a reformed Rural Affairs Forum for England (see below).
    • In the light of these changes the Countryside Agency would cease to be required as a separate organisation.

Recommendation 1.  Defra should review its rural policy remit in order to ensure that it is consistently understood by all concerned, including those who deliver its policies.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update

The Government agrees:

i) The Rural Strategy 2004 sets out the Government's rural policy, informed by the wide-ranging review of the Rural White Paper published in January 2004. Defra will develop strong new partnership arrangements with delivery organisations to ensure it is understood and implemented effectively (see Recs. 2-8).

i) Done.

The Rural Strategy 2004 has since been amplified by Defra's 5 year strategy and the Government's Rural Manifesto.  See the responses to Recs. 2-8 for ways in which partnerships with delivery organisations have been improved.

David Miliband became Secretary of State in May 2006. In both his July 2006 letter to the Prime Minister, outlining his priorities for Defra, and in his speech at the Royal Show in July 2006 he continues to emphasise the need to make best use of land for economic, social and environmental benefit and the long-term sustainability of rural communities.

Recommendation 2.  Defra's prime responsibility should be the development of policy, and it should arrange for the delivery of its policies through national, regional and local agencies. Policy and delivery functions should be managed separately so that accountability for policy and delivery is clearly defined.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update

The Government agrees. By April 2005, Defra will:

i) assume responsibility for all rural and forestry policy development (see Recs. 9 and 18);

ii) move the Rural Development Service (RDS) out of the policy core of Defra, providing it with greater autonomy and devolved authority for decision-making and delivery, as befits a distinct delivery organisation; and

iii) devolve regional decision-making on, and funding for, the delivery of rural economic and social regeneration to Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), working in close partnership with local authorities and others (see Recs. 9, 10 and 24).

i) Done. See update on Rec. 18.

ii) Done. The Rural Development Service moved out of the policy core of Defra in April 2005. It has a Board and Chair (Judith Webb) and its relationship with Defra is set out in a framework agreement.

iii) Done. £21M of funding and 19 staff transferred from the Countryside Agency to the Regional Development Agencies on 1 April 2005.  See the updates on Recs. 9,10 and12.

By January 2007, subject to legislation, Defra will:

i) formally establish an Integrated Agency as an independent statutory Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB), with devolved responsibility for decision-making and delivery (see Rec. 16).

i) On track. The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act Received Royal Assent on 30 March 2006.  The Act will, among other measures, create a new integrated agency, Natural England, its formal establishment planned for 1 October 2006.

By March 2008, Defra will:

i) refocus and streamline the Defra HQ policy function through implementing its Delivery Strategy. This will ensure that policy-makers focus on high-level policy objectives and strategic performance management, but deliver through others. It will reduce the overall number of staff through efficiency savings and through the devolution of operational and delivery functions out of core Defra to delivery bodies.

i) On track. Placing delivery functions with existing or new delivery bodies has continued with the creation of the State Veterinary Service, Marine Fisheries Agency and Government Decontamination Service as executive agencies, and the creation, in October 2006, of Natural England as an executive Non Departmental Public Body. The shape, size and functions of the policy making teams are adjusting in response. The Programme remains on track to deliver £21M annual efficiencies by 2009/10.

Recommendation 3.  The separation of policy and delivery functions should oblige Defra to consult delivery organisations at the earliest stages in policy formulation and to ask the latter to put forward proposals for the effective delivery of policy. In this way delivery organisations will be more accountable for effective management of programmes, and there should be less duplication of existing regional and local schemes. Defra will continue to appoint members of the various boards and to hold them accountable for their performance.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update

The Government agrees. Defra Ministers will continue to make appointments to Boards and, by April 05, Defra will:

i) agree and publish new or updated concordats or working agreements with all rural delivery organisations that include the requirement for policy makers to involve deliverers in the development of policies and give deliverers the freedom to design detailed delivery arrangements themselves; and

ii) ensure that governance arrangements provide a robust accountability framework.

i) Partly delayed. Work is continuing to ensure that all rural delivery organisations are included in the development of policies and are given the freedom to design the detailed delivery arrangements themselves. Some recently developed working practices - with the Regional Development Agencies - are already based on these principles; and they will be incorporated into the arrangements for working with Natural England.  Other arrangements will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  Section 79 of the NERC Act, commenced on 31 May 2006, includes powers which can be used to devolve functions to and between delivery bodies.

ii) On track. The Delivery Strategy brings together much of Defra's work on improving delivery and on clarifying the relationship between policy and delivery.Work is continuing on updating or publishing new concordats, and establishing robust accountability frameworks with greater flexibility for delivery bodies.

Recommendation 4. Defra policy officials should develop a good understanding of delivery issues through a programme of training and secondments to delivery organisations. An understanding of delivery issues must be given higher priority in the assessment of individual performance. Secondments and Recruitment from delivery organisations should also be encouraged in order to improve mutual understanding.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response July 2006 Update

The Government agrees. From April 2005, Defra will:

i) introduce formal delivery awareness training for policy officials;

ii) review the Defra appraisal process for policy makers to ensure that delivery awareness and related skills feature more prominently; and

iii) increase secondments of policy officials to delivery bodies and vice versa.

i) Done and ongoing.  Defra provides a range of learning solutions that support better policy making and are open to all policy officials.  For example , the 'Better Policy Making Toolkit', 'Introduction to the EU', Guidance on Better Regulation and our 'Policy Benchmarking Workshops' where Policy Teams (and potentially their delivery partners) work in partnership to create and develop effective policies in a facilitated learning environment. Between March 05 and March 06 450 staff took part in the Benchmarking Workshop and 80 staff on the Intro to EU workshop. In addition, a brand new learning product called 'Effective working with Delivery Partners' is being developed, due to be rolled out in Autumn 2006, with the aim of improving delivery awareness and relationship management skills.

ii) On track.  Plans are underway to incorporate delivery strategy and policy skills into Defra's capabilities and skills framework (and thus its appraisal process) as part of the wider Professional Skills in Government (PSG) agenda.

iii) Done and on-going. The revised Interchange Strategy, agreed that priority would be given to increasing substantially the number of Senior Civil Service short placements spent at "the sharp end".  Defra continues to work with Government Offices, Agencies, Non Departmental Public Bodies and other delivery agents to encourage reciprocal Interchange arrangements and embed Interchange into the ways of working, and numbers of interchange have increased.

Recommendation 5.  Deliverers should agree targets with Defra, working with the Treasury, rather than having unrealistic ones imposed on them from Whitehall. This would include Defra's rural Public Service Agreement. In this way delivery organisations will accept greater ownership of these targets, which will be more achievable and less vulnerable to manipulation. There should be greater emphasis on setting rural targets that are linked to real outcomes rather than outputs (such as the number of grants processed).

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update

The Government agrees with the principle that those responsible for delivery should be involved in helping to set outcome-focused targets. Defra will:

i) continue to work with delivery organisations to agree outcome-focused targets for the SR2004 period (2005/6-2007/8);

ii) commit to working with delivery organisations in developing targets as part of future spending round negotiations; and

iii) continue to monitor, review and challenge delivery organisations' corporate plans to ensure they are sufficiently focused on the outcomes they have been asked to deliver.

i) Done.  For example, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) tasking framework commits the RDAs to contributing to three of Defra's Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets including PSA4 on rural productivity and access to services. See update on Rec. 7, para 3.

ii) Done and ongoing.  Developing targets as part of future spending round negotiations, and monitoring, reviewing and challenging delivery organisations' corporate plans to ensure they are outcome focused, will be covered in the Defra Departmental Reform Programme guidance on the structure and nature of relationships with delivery partners. As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 process, we are also reviewing our PSAs, including PSA4 on rural productivity and access to services.

iii) Done and ongoing. The draft corporate plans of the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Regional Development Agencies have been and continue to be subject to considerable challenge. Implementation of the Policy Centre Review Programme will facilitate Defra's ability to specify clear and relevant outcomes and to settle targets and policies for achieving them in conjunction with delivery partners.

Recommendation 6. Delivery organisations should have the maximum flexibility to allocate resources in the most effective ways, whilst keeping the necessary discipline over administrative costs.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update

The Government agrees. During 2005, Defra will:

i) introduce governance frameworks that provide greater flexibility for Defra's delivery organisations, underpinned by robust and transparent performance management; and

ii) work with its NDPBs to agree plans for the provision of back office functions on a corporate basis where this will maximise efficient use of administrative budgets and free up resources for the front line.

i) Partly delayed. This is part of the implementation of the Delivery Strategy and the Policy Centre Review Programme.  Work is continuing on updating or publishing new concordats, establishing robust accountability frameworks with greater flexibility for rural deliverers.  Section 79 of the NERC Act, commenced on 31 May 2006, includes powers which can be used to devolve functions to and between delivery bodies. 

ii) On track.  Defra is working with its Agencies and NDPBs to create a shared services organisation to provide Defra and its delivery bodies with back office corporate services. Natural England will take its corporate services from Defra's shared services organisation from 1 October 2006.  This is consistent with the Gershon reform agenda.

By January 2007, Defra will:

i) negotiate for greater flexibility to be applied to the use of funds transferred from CAP subsidy payments (Pillar 1) to rural development and agri-environmental programmes (Pillar 2), building on the flexibility on use of Receipts of the EU modulation system achieved in the 2003 negotiations.

i) Done. The December 2005 budget deal agreed by the European Council stated that Member States would have flexibility to use voluntary modulation in the next rural development programming period (2007-2013), up to a maximum of 20% of CAP Pillar 1 payments. The December agreement also confirmed that these new voluntary modulation receipts could be used on all rural development measures. Discussions regarding the rate of voluntary modulation and national match-funding that will apply in England during 2007-2013 are ongoing within Government and with the European Commission.

Recommendation 7. Defra should agree shared targets with other Government Departments (OGDs) and their delivery organisations in order to secure better delivery of its rural policy objectives. This will substantially strengthen Defra's ability to influence outcomes.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update

The Government agrees that rural proofing of other Government Departments' Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets is vital. From 2004, Defra will:

i) work with other Government Departments to ensure that from April 2005 a rural marker is added to monitoring data to help assess rural impact, where this can be done without disproportionate cost or burden of data collection;

ii) work with other Government Departments to introduce regular reporting on progress towards PSA targets with a rural dimension;

iii) under the RDA tasking framework, reach agreement with RDAs on outcomes to be included in RDA corporate plans; and

iv) work with local authorities, through Government Offices, to help them develop second generation local Public Service Agreements (LPSAs) that benefit local communities and support sustainable development.

i) On track.  Defra has worked with other Government Departments to secure their agreement to apply a rural split to a number of their data-sets. We continue to work with other Government Departments (OGDs) on the 'services' element of our PSA4 (on rural productivity and access to services) to enable us to measure our progress in ensuring delivery of an agreed range of public services from five Departments - Department of Health, Department for Education and Skills, Department for Transport, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG, previously Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) and Department for Work & Pensions.  Some of these indicators have been inalized, and the data is available. Others are still being worked on with the Departments leading on the policies. In total, we aim to have around 7 targets included under PSA 4. Additionally, the NERC Act enables the formal establishment of the Commission for Rural Communities, planned for 1 October 2006, which will have a role in enhancing and monitoring rural proofing across the public and private and voluntary sectors. See update on Rec. 9.

ii) On track. We provide the Treasury with a six-monthly report of progress against PSA4.  Progress on reporting of OGDs' achievements against this PSA will depend on successful completion of the datasets described above.

iii) Done.  The RDA corporate plans, published in April 2005 reflected the RDA 'tasking framework' commitment to their contribution to Defra's PSA 4 target (improving rural productivity and access to services).  RDAs are now disaggregating their 'core outputs' on a rural/urban basis and by disadvantaged areas (where data is available).

iv) On track. The LPSA process has now been superseded by the performance reward element of Local Area Agreements (LAAs).  We have developed a package of support for the Government Offices and continue to work closely with the Government Offices, DCLG and the rural pathfinder projects (see Rec. 14) to ensure that rural and sustainable development interests are well reflected in LAAs. 

Recommendation 8. Defra should improve the quality of its management information in order to take better informed decisions and to control the administrative costs associated with the schemes and services that it funds.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update. Also see updates on Recs. 31 & 32.

The Government agrees. From 2005, Defra will:

i) develop common repositories for land, livestock, customer, environment and rural information, to enhance the quality and accessibility of information in Defra and its delivery bodies, improve customer interaction with Defra, and allow greater control and manipulation of data;

ii) introduce 'Genesis', an IT-based system that will integrate information on the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) thereby improving Defra's strategic management capability and facilitating efficiency improvements.

i) Partly delayed. Defra is in the process of developing shared data services for customer, land, livestock and other key information that is needed across the family. These services will help in providing a better customer experience and provide efficiency savings within the Department. Good progress has been made on the design of these services, although Departmental financial pressures have caused us to re-consider the approach and pace of implementation. We are now revising our plans for implementation. We have introduced new processes and systems to administer current and future environmental stewardship schemes and are consolidating payments through the Rural Payments Agency. These new arrangements provide us with an improved basis on which to control the relevant schemes. We have introduced a Rural Evidence Hub to provide access to important data and information sources and will expand these capabilities with more innovative use of geographical presentation and analysis. We are also improving access to rural business advice and information through various upgrades to the Defra website. A first release, launched in July 2006, provides farmers and land managers with clearer information to help them run their businesses.

ii) Partly delayed. The first elements of the Genesis IT system were introduced in March 2005, in time to support the launch and implementation of Environmental Stewardship.  There is a significant and challenging programme of activity, which is expected to run until early in 2007, to introduce further releases of functionality, and effect the transfer of data from legacy IT systems to Genesis.  Considerable improvements in delivery efficiency have however already been realised, with agri-environment administration costs reduced from approximately 30% of the value of grants to landowners in 2000, to around 13% in 2005.

Rec. 9.  In pursuit of the objectives of separating policy from delivery and of devolving delivery, the functions of the Countryside Agency should be transferred to the appropriate specialist organisations.  Thus:

  • policy development (including the commissioning of pilots and demonstration projects), together with the promotion of rural proofing, would pass to Defra and the Government Offices;

  • social and economic programmes would pass to regional and local networks of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), local authorities and the voluntary and community sector;

  • environmental, landscape, access and Recreational programmes would pass to the new, integrated agency proposed below (see Rec. 16);

  • review of rural proofing, challenge and external advice would pass to a reformed Rural Affairs Forum for England (see below).

In the light of these changes the Countryside Agency would cease to be required as a separate organisation.

Rural Strategy 2004 - the Government's response
July 2006 Update

The Government agrees that policy-making should be the responsibility of core Defra, and that delivery-related functions of the Countryside Agency should be transferred to delivery bodies.
However, the Government believes that the role for a strong and independent Rural Advocate is as important now as ever, to advise on the issues affecting rural communities. The Government has therefore decided to reshape the Countryside Agency into a small, expert body to provide strong and impartial advice to Government, and act as watchdog and advocate for rural people and communities, especially those suffering disadvantage. This will be a new and distinctive role, building on the successes of the Countryside Agency and of the Rural Advocate. The New Countryside Agency will have a strong, focused and impartial voice, unfettered by delivery responsibilities of its own but with a responsibility to monitor and report on the delivery of others.
This decision obviates the need to reform the Rural Affairs Forum for England as suggested in this Recommendation; this would be to duplicate the role of the New Countryside Agency.
To enable the refocused New Countryside Agency to concentrate on its fresh and distinctive role, by April 2005, Defra will:

i) assume full responsibility for rural policy development;

ii) assume lead responsibility for encouraging policy-makers and delivery bodies to rural-proof policies, activities and funding programmes effectively;

iii) devolve resources associated with the Countryside Agency's socio-economic activities to RDAs so that socio-economic interventions in rural areas are better mainstreamed, and need can be more effectively targeted;

iv) channel funding via Government Offices for the rural voluntary and community sector, including Rural Community Councils, to strengthen local capacity (see Rec. 14);

v) align the Countryside Agency's landscape, access and Recreational responsibilities with other parts of the future Integrated Agency, through close joint working between the three organisations (see Rec.16); and

vi) establish a New Countryside Agency, with a new name to be determined, initially as a distinct body within the Countryside Agency's legal framework, to provide expert advice to Government and act as watchdog and advocate on behalf of rural people and communities, especially those suffering disadvantage.

i) Done.  Defra is the lead for rural policy within Government, informed by the expert advice it Receives from, among others, the Commission for Rural Communities.

ii) Done. Defra, advised by the Commission for Rural Communities, works closely with other Government departments and their agencies, regional organisations (e.g. Regional Development Agencies (RDAs)) and local authorities, among others, in order to further encourage best practice in rural proofing policy development and delivery.

iii) Done. The £21m resources associated with the Countryside Agency's socio-economic activities were devolved to RDAs from April 2005 and now form part of the RDA single pot funding.  This gives RDAs the ability to ensure that the needs of rural people, identified through regional prioritisation work, are addressed in regional-level strategies and delivery plans, and provides greater flexibility in how funding is used to address disadvantage.

iv) Done. Funding for rural community capacity building has been switched from the Countryside Agency to Defra, with operational work having been taken on by Government Offices. The resulting Rural Social and Community Programme was launched in April 2006.  It supports the development of local partnerships to deliver local measures aimed at addressing rural social exclusion and rural community capacity building.  It also provides funding of more than £3m a year for Rural Community Councils, on the basis of three year Service Level Agreements which commenced on 1 April 2005.

v) Done. The Landscape, Access and Recreation division of the Countryside Agency has been working closely together with English Nature and the Rural Development Service, as a 'confederation of partners', since April 05. The work will become an integral part of Natural England's responsibilities.

vi) Done. The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) was launched as an operating division of the Countryside Agency on 9 March 2005. In fulfilment of its roles as rural watchdog, adviser and advocate, the CRC has published research on the availability of broadband in rural areas, its annual 'State of the Countryside' report, and its annual rural proofing report.  The CRC has also launched a study on choice in public services.  The CRC's first inquiry - into housing, launched in July 2005 - showed its commitment to addressing the problems facing rural people: this report was launched in May 2006. The CRC's first thematic study - into rural disadvantage - was published in June 2006.

In addition to establishing the New Countryside Agency as rural adviser, advocate and watchdog, Defra will ensure Ministers continue to have a diRect relationship with rural stakeholders, by:

i) holding an annual rural conference to act as a sounding board for rural stakeholders from national, regional and local organisations; and

ii) putting greater emphasis on the voice of rural people based in the regions, through more regular diRect meetings between Ministers and regional Forums and their Chairs (see Rec. 25). Together these arrangements will build on the current Regional Rural Affairs Forums and subsume the Rural Affairs Forum for England.

i) Done.  The first conference was held in Cumbria in February 2005, and focused on rural services.  A further national conference, on rural housing issues, was held in Dorset in early November 2005.

ii) Done.  Ministers meet roughly quarterly with chairs of the Regional Rural Affairs Forums.  The Rural Affairs Forum for England held its last meeting in November 2004.

By 2007, subject to legislation, Defra will:

i) formally establish the Countryside Agency's landscape, access and Recreational responsibilities within the new Integrated Agency; and

ii) formally establish the New Countryside Agency in its new form as a small expert advisory body.

i) On track. The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act, received Royal Assent on 30 March 2006. The Act will, amongst other measures, formally establish Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities, planned for 1 October 2006.

ii) On track. As above.

Recommendations 10-15 >

 

Page last modified: 10 August, 2006
Page published: 8 August, 2006

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs