MPs fairly happy with Defra's performance
Politicians charged with summing up Defra's performance over 2005 believe the department has had a good year but that there is still plenty of room for improvement in some key areas.Members of the Commons Committee on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) say in the Departmental Annual Report that Defra has made good progress overall this year but has fallen down on delivering some of promises.
On the plus side there has been significant improvement in the integration of departmental 'silos' and Defra has also managed to increase its influence in Whitehall, seen as a positive step by MPs.
In some areas the department has failed to deliver as well as it might, however, particularly with regards to the 'rural affairs' part of its remit.
"We are extremely disappointed that Defra has still not been able to assess progress against its Public Service Agreement target relating to rural affairs," said Efra's report.
"This is especially unsatisfactory given the target went 'live' on 1 April 2003. We recommend the Department start to think now of a more appropriate PSA target relating to rural affairs.
"It should ensure that the baseline of, and progress made in achieving, any new target can be measured appropriately."
The department was also asked, albeit politely, to cut the waffle in its annual report to keep it to a digestible length.
"As was the case last year, we believe the 2005 Departmental Report - at 372 pages - is too long," said Efra's analysis.
"We understand there is a need to deal with all aspects of the Department's work.
"Nevertheless, the Departmental Report would benefit from being more concise and selective in the information it provides."
The new sustainable delivery action plans which other Government departments are now required to produce for Defra were singled out as a particularly positive development and Efra urged the department to ensure it followed through on the idea and 'monitored vigorously' the progress made across Whitehall.
By Sam Bond