Select Committee on Public Accounts Sixty-Second Report


Conclusions and recommendations


1.  The Department's management of the programme has been weak, and has not demonstrably added value to the programme. Its programme management systems are not commensurate with the programme's size and scale of ambition. Instead of retaining direct day-to day management uniquely for this programme, it should delegate operational management of the Gateway to the proposed new regeneration agency, the Communities and Homes Agency, to sit along side the other housing growth programmes, and utilise the agency's housing and regeneration expertise. The Department would then be better able to concentrate on policy development and achieving cross-government coordination

2.  The Thames Gateway is one of 15 mission critical programmes prioritised by the Government, with an ambitious vision which will require sustained prioritisation and cooperation across Whitehall. In response to the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report, the Government has established a cross-government board of senior officials to provide overall strategic management of the programme. Members of the board will need to embed the Thames Gateway programme into their departments' core work, on the basis of explicit and mutually agreed commitments defining their part in the programme, and responsibility for delivering of it.

3.  The Department has not translated the vision for the programme into comprehensive and measurable objectives, nor are there robust systems to measure progress. The relevant departments should agree a balanced scorecard of indicators and measure cross-government spending on the programme. The Department should publish reports annually on the programme's progress.

4.  The delivery chain for the Thames Gateway is unclear. There are over 100 organisations involved in the Thames Gateway programme across central, regional and local government and the private and voluntary sectors. There are multiple funding streams channelling into projects and multiple lines of reporting. The Government needs to establish and set out the roles of each of the organisations involved and of each layer of government so that there is no unwarranted overlap of responsibilities or duplication.

5.  The Department does not know how much the regeneration of the Thames Gateway will cost the taxpayer. It has promised to establish a costed implementation plan by November 2007, linked to the outcome of the comprehensive spending review, but with the risk that the plan will only include those projects that can be immediately accommodated within departments' three year budgets. The implementation plan should cost all the steps necessary to achieve the government's ambitions for the Thames Gateway, including those that have yet to be approved or establish their funding.

6.  There is a risk that the economic benefits of regeneration will not reach existing residents. Current employment levels in the Thames Gateway are lower than the surrounding region. The aim is to increase the number of jobs in the Thames Gateway, but the Department does not know how many of these jobs will go to existing residents. There is a risk that improved public services, infrastructure and housing will be concentrated in new developments. The Department should consider the impact on existing residents in developing its strategy, implementation plan and project appraisals, so that both they and new residents share in the benefits of regeneration.

7.  Some local regeneration partners have low capacity and struggle with complex procurement and engaging potential investors. The Department has established nine local regeneration partnerships to coordinate local planning and projects and spends £10 million on their administration each year. It needs to establish a clear management and performance monitoring framework for these partnerships.

8.  Local MPs do not feel sufficiently engaged with the Thames Gateway programme. The programme would benefit from local MPs having a clearer role in promoting local plans and engaging local communities. The Department needs to consult and engage MPs more systematically through the Thames Gateway parliamentary group and on an individual basis.

9.  Many stakeholders are calling for better engagement with the private sector. The private sector will provide most of the investment needed in the Thames Gateway but the Department cannot give assurance on the amount of private funding levered in taxpayers' investment and has not explored all options for raising private finance. The Department needs to bring on board institutional investors and developers to advise them on how better to engage the City and other private investors.

10.  Multiple inward investment agencies operating within the region and the lack of a coordinated marketing strategy have led to poor visibility of the programme outside the area and amongst potential investors. To raise awareness of the programme and attract investors, employers and new residents to the area the Department should develop a coordinated marketing campaign including a central marketing suite open to the public and potential investors; a branding strategy agreed amongst all partners; and appropriately targeted advertising.


 
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Prepared 15 November 2007