Posts Tagged ‘RDAs’

Scrapping RDAs has made Osborne’s task harder

06/12/2014, 07:27:27 PM

By Kevin Meagher

As the Tories’ main political strategist, George Osborne knows only too well that winning the next election means convincing people they’re getting better off, or soon will be. In the next six months, his task is to make sure the warm rays of economic prosperity are felt across all parts of the country.

Yet as the dust settles on the Autumn Statement, recovery remains stubbornly uneven and tackling Britain’s asymmetric economy, split between a galloping London and South East and, at best, a cantering North and Midlands, looks as forlorn a prospect as it has for the past three decades.

Yet the bodies set up by Labour in 1998 to narrow these deep economic disparities – the nine English regional development agencies – were in coalition ministers’ crosshairs from day one. To Conservative eyes, RDAs were quintessentially old Labour. The state getting involved in promoting economic growth.

While the concept of “regions” was an unwelcome affectation, dreamt up by John Prescott in all his pomp running the sprawling Department of Environment, Transport and Regions.

In fact, David Cameron used his first major speech as prime minister to herald a different approach to driving local growth. It mattered little that the boards of the RDAs were private sector-led. Or that there was strong business support for retaining the northern agencies in particular. Or, indeed, that they were actually succeeding in their task of boosting growth. (In 2009, PriceWaterhouse Coopers calculated that the economic value they generated was equivalent to £4.50 for every £1 of public money invested).

But the RDAs fate was sealed because the Lib Dems didn’t think much of them either. Business secretary Vince Cable suggested scrapping them himself in a paper for the Reform think tank before the 2010 election. So when the “bonfire of the quangos” was lit, the English RDAs were the Guy Fawkes effigy placed right at the top of the pyre.

Since then, ministers have created a total of 39 local enterprise partnerships – effectively mini-RDAs but without the budgets – or the experienced staff – to drive local growth. This disjointed, stop-start approach, just as the economy was going through the bumpy 2010-12 period, was one of the more politically indulgent things the government has done.

And, potentially, one of the more politically costly.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Rachel Reeves on the government’s chaotic and contradictory economic policy

08/09/2010, 10:27:18 AM

The chaotic and schizophrenic temperament of the government’s economic policy was further in evidence yesterday when the select committee for business, innovation and skills (of which I am a member) took evidence on the abolition of the regional development agencies (RDAs).  We’ve known for months now that the RDAs are going, but we still don’t know what will be formed in their place or the transition plans to get there.  Anyone would think the government doesn’t really care…

What we have now is a mess, and that’s dangerous for business and jobs.  On the one hand, the government trumpets its localism – devolving decision making from the regions to local authorities.  On the other, they centralise – with trade, investment, business support and skills being re-nationalised back to Whitehall.  Sir Roy McNulty, chairman of the west midlands RDA, described the policy as ‘a strange type of localism’.  Strange indeed, when it includes centralising key functions. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour must show it could cut the deficit and drive growth and the jobs of the future, argues Pat McFadden

23/07/2010, 10:49:13 AM

The Tories have a clear plan for their austerity programme which is to discredit Labour’s economic record, blame the situation they inherited from Labour for all the cuts they will make and suggest that anyone who doesn’t support their programme has no worthwhile economic proposition at all. 

 It is a plan which should be challenged at each point.  But it would also be a mistake to suggest that anyone on the centre left who wanted to address the issue of the deficit was somehow endorsing the Tory plan.  That isn’t true and would appear to suggest that there was no worthwhile difference between the plans on which Labour and the Conservatives fought the election. 

Yet the difference between the two parties is being felt every day in issues from the abandoned school building programme to cancelled regeneration projects and support for key industrial projects such as the Sheffield Forgemasters plan to make Britain a key player in the worldwide civil nuclear supply chain.

Labour won power in 1997 partly because we had worked hard to develop economic competence, to move on from a reputation for having big hearts but soft heads when it came to the nation’s finances.  We didn’t lose that focus in government.  We presided over the biggest increase in GDP per head in the G7 between 1997 and 2009, even after taking into account the financial crisis.

Of course the global financial crisis and our response – designed to stop recession turning into depression – meant borrowing was raised but this was a choice, a judgement we made. 

Labour fought the election on a plan to reduce the deficit over a longer timescale, with a different balance between spending reductions and tax measures and with key priorities protected.  That plan would have required some tough decisions and there’s no getting away from that.  We had already announced some spending reductions in the PBR last year and had proposed for example changes to civil service redundancy terms.  But Labour’s approach would have been very different to the Tory plan now being rammed through, a plan characterised by deep cuts started before recovery is established, with no regard for the impact on the private sector or future industrial opportunities for the country.

Labour’s plan would have had, at its heart, an active role for Government in promoting growth and ensuring Britain tried to develop key capability in areas of future employment growth such as low carbon vehicles, the digital economy, green energy and other areas.

The Tory deficit plan pays no regard to these areas.  This week’s document issued on this had little to say.  In fact, in addition to cancelling the Forgemasters loan the Government seems to be giving up on plans for a Green Investment Bank.  And their plans for abolishing the RDAs and cutting support for the regions will make recovery and growth even harder to achieve.

Cutting the deficit in the way they are doing is faith based economics, with the Tories playing the role of high priests and the Lib Dems displaying the zeal of the recently converted.

The challenge for the Labour Party is to address the deficit in a way that also includes a drive for the growth and jobs of the future.  And that’s a far cry from what the Tories and Lib Dems are doing.

The Rt Hon Pat McFadden is MP for Wolverhampton South East  and Shadow Secretary of State for Business

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Coalition government has no coherent strategy for growth, argues Rachel Reeves

21/07/2010, 04:36:26 PM

Wednesday morning saw the first evidence session under the new membership of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee.  As a Committee, we chose to use this opportunity to put Vince Cable (as Secretary of State for the Department), and David Willetts (as his Minister of State for Universities and Science) through their paces, and put their recent announcements and departmental plans for the future in the spotlight.

This was the chance for Vince Cable to set out how the government was going to rebalance the economy.  It was his big opportunity to spell out their desperately-needed strategy for growth, and his vision for how we would rebuild an economy that was sectorally and regionally diverse, with strong, sustainable growth.  I looked forward to hearing about the evidence behind the decisions and announcements that had already been made, and his rationale and thinking for future plans.

With these expectations, what we actually heard from the Secretary of State and his Minister was a disappointment.  This disappointment started before the meeting had even begun, when we received copies of the Department’s Strategy for Growth, contained in what Vince himself said ‘could not be described as more than a pamphlet’.  His opening rhetoric may have sounded good, but his assertion that a new economy should be rebalanced rings somewhat hollow when, as I pointed out to him, the only mention of a regional strategy to rebalance the economy comes on page 14 of a 16 page document.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

We need a growth plan, not regional economic vandalism, says Rachel Reeves

02/07/2010, 10:52:28 AM

On Tuesday, Nick Clegg announced that at least £0.5bn was to be cut from the budget for regional economic development and at the same time abolished the regional development agencies (RDAs).  In their place will be a ‘regional development fund’.  In creating this new body, the government broke its promise – with no consultation or debate – that regional development agencies would remain in areas where they were popular.

This is devastating news for businesses across the country, with the coalition government seemingly evermore determined to risk plunging the UK back into recession. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon