Select Committee on Public Accounts Sixty-Second Report

2  Managing the delivery of the programme

13. The Department's overall management of the programme has been weak. It is yet to establish arrangements for controlling the programme such as a budget, implementation plan, joint risk management, appropriate financial incentives, a performance management framework for delivery partners, public reporting on progress, and measurable performance indicators. Of the 48 management tasks that the National Audit Office said it would expect the Department to undertake for the Thames Gateway, it found mechanisms and processes in place for only 14. The Department is currently putting in place processes to carry out 26 more. This reform of its programme management will only be completed after the Department has spent its current allocation of £673 million.[14]

14. The Department has allocated the £673 million through a competitive bidding approach. Grants have been allocated against set criteria including whether the project would be quick to get going and thus use the funding available. Such a project by project approach is dependent on the bids received, and assessing projects one at a time does not allow the identification of those projects most critical to achieving the programme's objectives. It also caused a lack of funding certainty which reduced investor confidence.[15]

15. The Government's vision for the Thames Gateway has not been fully translated into targets and objectives for the programme. The Department wants housing growth, matched by job creation, transport infrastructure, improvements to locally available public services, an increase in local skills, and improvements to the physical and natural environment. But it only has targets on house numbers, job numbers and quality of schemes as defined by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, which focuses delivery on gross housing numbers and job creation. The Department says it will prepare targets covering other areas of the Government's aspirations after the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.[16]

16. For the areas where targets exist, the Department does not have processes for measuring the programme's progress towards achieving them. For instance, the Department has not historically collected data on the number of homes being built in the Thames Gateway before 2001 and stopped collecting it after 2005. So the Department is not able to compare house building to its historical trend or monitor the levels going forward. The Department believes it could collect housing numbers through the Government Offices, but other performance indicator data are not available for the Thames Gateway.[17]

17. The Department estimates that the total capital spending in the region was £7 billion from 2003 and 2006 but it is unable to collect information on how this was spent and so does not know what proportion was part of the Thames Gateway programme. Much of the programme's investment comes through other government departments or from the Department via other bodies such as English Partnerships and the Regional Development Agencies. Many projects are funded by a variety of partners that are, in turn, ultimately funded by the Department, making it difficult to monitor which projects are funded as a result of the programme and which are not.[18]

18. The Department's lack of performance and expenditure information provides little assurance that the regeneration of the Thames Gateway as a whole is delivering value for money. The baseline the Department established in November 2006 is a good starting point, but better measurement processes are needed. The current lack of consistent reporting on progress risks undermining investor and stakeholder confidence in the programme and limits the Department's ability to steer the programme.[19]

19. Detailed planning for the Thames Gateway is still being drawn up at a local level. Local Authorities in the Thames Gateway are drawing up detailed statutory local development frameworks, which will set out specific development plans for each area of the Thames Gateway, but these are not expected to be in place until 2008 at the earliest. Local regeneration partnerships have established non-statutory local regeneration frameworks which may inform these statutory plans.[20]

20. The Department has not established an overall implementation plan or budget for the programme. The lack of an overall implementation plan is not unusual for large regeneration programmes in the UK, but of particular importance to the Thames Gateway because of the scale of the area, the number and variety of stakeholders involved, and the amount of infrastructure investment needed. The Department intends to publish a plan following the Comprehensive Spending Review which was published this autumn.[21]

14   C&AG's Report, paras 2.3, 2.14, 3.14, 3.19; Figures 7 and 10; recommendations 2, 3, 4, and 5; Appendix one and footnote 12 Back

15   C&AG's Report, Figure 18; Qq 121-122 Back

16   Thames Gateway Interim Plan, Department for Communities and Local Government, November 2006; C&AG's Report, Figure 7; para 2.3; Q 125 Back

17   C&AG's Report, footnote 13; Q 6 Back

18   C&AG's Report, para 3.15; Figure 2; Qq 63-64 Back

19   C&AG's Report, paras 2.3, 2.4 Back

20   C&AG's Report, paras 2.10, 2.11 Back

21   C&AG's Report, paras 2.12, 2.14; Qq 9, 114, 122, 136  Back

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