Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence



  The West Midlands Regional Assembly has worked closely with Advantage West Midlands and Government Office West Midlands to develop an effective and balanced scrutiny process. This is set out in the Strategic Review Protocol that was revised in 2005 to provide a framework for how the Assembly fulfils its statutory role. This identifies two areas of activity, scrutiny of Advantage West Midlands, the Regional Development Agency and wider strategic reviews throughout which the Assembly aims to represent the views of the West Midlands.

  The Assembly, through its scrutiny process, aims to be a critical friend to Advantage West Midlands, informing policy development and enhancing its strategic approach. The majority of the Assembly scrutiny activity examines how Advantage West Midlands is leading regeneration and economic development within the region. This is primarily focused on the development and delivery of the Regional Economic Strategy with detailed reviews of specific areas of Advantage West Midlands activity such as Regeneration Zones and, High Technology Corridors. In addition the Assembly also reviews monitoring reports submitted to Government Office West Midlands by Advantage West Midlands.

  The Assembly also carries out one strategic review each year to examine how regional bodies are working collectively to address key issues for the region. Such thematic reviews are carried out under the aegis of the Regional Concordat. Completed reviews include Sustainable Development and Equalities and Diversity.

  The Assembly plays a key role in strengthening regional accountability both through its scrutiny of Advantage West Midlands and its wider strategic review activity. The process aims to promote open and transparent policies and decision-making by provide a forum for partners to discuss issues and areas of concern. In the case of scrutiny reviews these identify key question areas for Advantage West Midlands to respond to in a formal hearing. All evidence gathering sessions and formal hearings are held in public and the Assembly has worked hard to engage partners at a regional, sub regional and local level. This has led to over 130 participants in the recently completed Equalities and Diversity Review and 80 in the current scrutiny review of Advantage West Midlands support for Rural Renaissance.

  The process has demonstrated that partners are looking for opportunities to understand and contribute to decision making at a regional level. There is clear view that regional bodies should be held to account both from a funding and policy development perspective. The Assembly has provided a route by which partners feel that they can start to influence organisations with complex and often opaque lines of accountability.

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