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Sustainable Development Champion for the East Midlands ?

March 11, 2009

This morning, I attended an event at which consultants GHK presented some initial thoughts on the creation of a Sustainable Development Champion body for the region.  This work, jointly commissioned by The Government Office, the Regional Assembly and the Regional Development Agency, is a response to DEFRA’s “request” that regions consider how best to drive the sustainable development (SD) agenda and whether or not there needs to be a “champion” body as already exist in some regions.  Options identified range from a basic trying to improve what we’ve got at present through to the creation of a bells and whistles independant Champion agency.

I can’t say that there was a consensus about how exactly we should improve our performance on SD – hardly to be expected at this stage of proceedings and given the scale of the issue.  However, there did seem to be general agreement that mainstreaming SD within existing bodies and strategies is a priority and not to be replaced by the creation of an SD champion.  There are however a number of issues to be addressed:

  1. There is a need to ensure that we have a good evidence base on which to help us better understand our performance i.r.o.  SD
  2. There is a need to establish a robust scrutiny system to ensure that agencies are held to account for delivering on agreed SD targets.
  3. There is a need for stronger advocacy i.r.o. SD, ensuring that local and regional agencies are connected, ensuring that we have good stories to tell about what works and what doesn’t, identifyinf training and capacity needs.

I’d really value your views on how the region should respond to the SD agenda.  In particular, what role would you like REM to play in SD.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Warren Pearce permalink*
    March 11, 2009 10:03 pm

    Creating new agencies should be a last resort – we have enough re-structuring in regional governance at the moment thanks!

    Mainstreaming SD within existing bodies is clearly essential. However, it’s too important to be left to chance, especially as it can all too easily be crowded out by more short-term concerns. Although regional bodies have clearly made steps in the right direction, the challenge of re-aligning long-held priorities should not be underestimated.

    I’d welcome seeing some more detail from the GHK work, but first thoughts are that there must be a regional scrutineer with real teeth. This could incorporate a regional representative of the SDC, a great source of expertise at the national level.

  2. evanrees permalink*
    March 12, 2009 8:32 am

    I can forward a copy of the GHK report to anyone interested. I tend to agree with you on the question of scrutiny. It is however back to the old conundrum of “who watches the watchmen”. IMHO, the real scrutiny question relates to the single regional strategy and its implementation plan. As theese are the joint responsibility of the emda Board and of the new Leadership Board there would be a problem with creating something with “power” over a Board appointed by the secretary of State on the one hand and a Board of elected members on the other. A naming and shaming role is possible but does that represent “real teeth” that you call for? At yesterdays meeting, the Regional Select committee was referred to as a possible scrutineer. It was made clear however, that as this is a parliamentary committee made up of members of the House of Commons then we can’t assign roles for it.

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