From education to employment

The Taxpayers Alliance calls for RDAs to be scrapped

Regional Development Agencies designed to increase economic growth across the country have been branded an ineffective waste of money by the Taxpayers Alliance.

RDAs were set up by the Government to promote sustainable economic development in England, and launched in nine regions to reduce social and economic disparities within and between the areas. The pressure group recently released a full report detailing the economic performance of the regions being supported by the development agencies, and believe local economies were actually performing better before they were introduced in 1998.

In order to increase economic growth throughout the selected regions, RDAs aim to: promote skills; improve infrastructure; support enterprise; encourage innovation and enable economic growth. The way in which the agencies aim to deliver these five priorities and implement their goal is to focus on the specific regional properties that drive economic growth. Business developments are supported; competitiveness is encouraged by both public and private investment and levels of education, learning and skills are raised.

RDAs insist that since 2007 they have safeguarded 118,500 new jobs, assisted and improved the performance of 200,000 businesses and helped to develop the skills of 340,000 people.

However, the report by the TPA has accused the scheme of wasting £15.3 billion of taxpayer’s money. According to the study, since 1999 the number of people in work has slowed. It showed that between 1995 and 2000, the number of jobs in England increased by 9.5 percent, however, between 1999 and 2006 the increase was a mere 0.1 percent.

Policy analyst for the TPA, Ben Farrugia, said: “Regional Development Agencies have failed in their core mission to narrow the gap between the economic performance of England’s regions. At a time when businesses are increasingly over-regulated and over-taxed, RDAs have become a symbol of wasteful bureaucratic excess. They should be abolished before the Government hands them even greater powers.”

The claims were defended by a business department spokesman who stressed the business-led scheme encouraged investment all over England.

The spokesman said: "RDAs work to boost investment, economic development and regeneration and provide business support. They promote enterprise in disadvantaged area, offer skills and training and help link up businesses and universities to foster business innovation."

Pam Alexander, chief executive of the South East of England Development Agency, said the report "contains information that is largely out of date, inaccurate and taken out of context."

By Natalie Hailes

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