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Whilst power is being devolved to the local level, the role of the regions is less clear.  The sub-national review is attempting to address this, but a lack of clarity in its overall thrust, and the disparity between how it will be implemented in different areas means that this issue will remain unclear for some time to come.  Alterations to the regional structure are set to continue, with the dissolution of the Regional Assemblies (RAs), and changes to the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), with economic and social development agencies being merged. 

What are the implications?

  • Risk of the VCS being excluded from decision making as RAs are dissolved and RDAs are re-structured
  • Increased complexity in tiers of government, resulting in a lack of clarity for organisations of all sizes in influencing local, regional and national agendas and understanding where decisions are made
  • Alterations in funding streams
  • Increasingly complex targets
  • Confusion amongst organisations of where and how to access information and support

Moving forward

At the moment there are no obvious avenues for the VCS to influence regional decisions.  How can you ensure that your voice is heard?  Would collaborating with other organisations put you in a stronger position to do this?

With a lack of clarity of future structure, organisations may find planning difficult.  How can you keep informed of upcoming and proposed changes?

Many organisations work towards government targets; with the future structure of these unclear, how can you ensure that you are working towards those that are most appropriate? 

With decision-making being devolved to ‘the most appropriate level’, how will you know what this level is? Where can you find out this information?

If you receive funding from these avenues, how can you plan for reduced or changing funding from these income streams?


Want to know more?

National Impact Evaluation Report

Published by: Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)

Date: 2009

Format:  PDF

What is it?  Report evaluating the impact of spending by the nine Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) between 1999 and 2007.

How useful is this?  This is an independent review of the RDAs and their impact, both within the Regional economic strategies, and within each of their specific corporate plans, allowing you to assess for yourself what the government’s drive towards regional development has achieved, and how the extension of RDAs responsibilities has affected their outcomes.  The report examines both outputs and outcomes, and makes for interesting reading for those interested in regional development.

Other comments:  The report comes in two parts, or can be downloaded by region.

Why place matters and implications for the role of Central, Regional and Local Government

Published by: CLG

Date: 2008

Format: Word document and PDF

What is it?  Report analysing the political and economic reasoning behind the Sub-National Review

How useful is this?  The paper offers insight into the government’s regional and local policies, examining the underlying principles for the allocation of responsibility at different levels of locality.  Split into four chapters, the splits its analysis to examine the governmental aims; the theory behind these; and evaluated results from undertaking these aims.  Of particular interest is chapter 4, which whilst evaluating the principles mentioned above, makes the case for further devolvement, illustrating where the government is likely to keep their focus, at least in the near future.

Other comments: This is the second in a series of papers, all of which can be downloaded from the CLG website.

All Inclusive?  Third sector involvement in regional and sub-regional policymaking

Published by: Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)

Date: 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? A report examining regional involvement in policy making, and how the VCS can impact on this

How useful is this?  This report asks the following questions: How open and responsive is public policymaking at sub-regional and regional levels?  How well organised and skilled is the third sector in seeking to engage?  How effectively is current engagement communicated within the sector?  It finds that problems with governance structures and ease of understanding these within the regions, as well as disparate working and skill gaps within the sector mean that the VCS is not as involved as it should or would like to be in policy making.  It identifies areas for development, and provides suggestions for moving forwards, both for the VCS and for regional and sub-regional government.

Other comments:


Last updated at 16:16 Wed 23/Feb/11.

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The Sub-National review is a key driver for the VCS in the regions outside London. It consolidates economic and social planning roles in the Regional Development Agencies and may have the unintended consequence of removing the participation of the Social, Environmental and Economic Partners from through the dissolution of the regional assemblies.

Two Regional Forum Briefings are available here

and here

The consultation runs to the 20th June 2008. More information is on the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform website

Has regionalisation faded into the background since the recession came along and with the 2010 election on its way? Are regions an easy target for spending cuts?

Sue's picture


In the South West we are meeting the challenges of de-regionalisation head-on.

As a regional voluntary sector network, South West Forum has invested a huge amount in bringing together the differing groups with a stake in ‘sub-national’ governance. We strongly believe that in the future there is a role for work at an intermediate level between local and national. This will help to eliminate duplication, share learning and good practice between local areas and take advantage of economies of scale. An example of work which already takes place at this level is the way in which SWF supports a network of the local authority officers with lead responsibility for voluntary and community organisations. These officers often work alone or in very small teams within their authorities and their feedback on - and level of engagement with - the network shows that they very much value the opportunity to meet, share ideas and good practice with neighbouring authorities. Is this something that would be of value in your area?

Being prepared gave us a head start.

The Sub National Review gave a clear, early indication of the move towards increased localism and South West Forum, with partners, started work early on post-SNR arrangements. Given the sharp acceleration of this direction following the 2010 general election, getting the thinking in there early was really beneficial.

So how are we preparing for moving forward?

One outcome of this work has been the development of South West Stakeholders (SWS). SWS has its origins in the Social, Economic and Environmental Partners grouping of the Regional Assembly – so membership is drawn from a very diverse range of non-statutory organisations. All members share a common commitment to improving the quality of life, environment and economy in the South West and include:

Citizens Advice

Equality South West

Federation of Small Businesses (SW)

National Housing Federation

Royal Town Planning Institute (SW)

South West Environment Network

South West Rural Affairs Forum

South West Travel Watch

South West TUC

... and more.

Is there the potential for you to set up something similar in your region?

As the de-regionalisation trend continues apace, SWS has been exploring how they see it playing out. For them, an integrated regional approach is essential to overcoming many of the key challenges they face at local levels within the region.

The issues they have identified that will be hit by de-regionalisation and how charities respond to this include poor transport infrastructure, high housing costs and low wages, high levels of inward migration and an ageing population. As these are issues in many parts of the country the approach of the South West could hold valuable learning. For more on this have a look at their published Lets hear it for the South West”.

“The South West Stakeholders is a good example of where contrasting interest groups have come together for a common good. Employer organisations, trade unions, environmental, housing, transport, church, equality, rural groups have been working together for a number of years. This is ‘Big Society’ in practice.”

Click here to download ‘Lets Hear It For The South West’ (2MB PDF)

Author: Stephen Woollett, Chief Executive, South West Forum and member of South West Stakeholders Executive. Contact / 01392 247901.

Join the discussion!

How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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