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CLES News

Government warned to mind the RDA gap

13th July 2011

Failure to hand over regional development agency resources to local enterprise partnerships will undermine the progress of LEPs, the government has been warned.

Peter Mathews, MD of Black Country Metals and a board member on the Black Country LEP, said there was growing frustration among business leaders over the way in which RDAs were being wound up.

Speaking at the CLES Summit in Manchester, he said: ‘We have no funding and don’t know whether we are going to get any. We need to know what’s going to happen to LEPs when RDAs close.’

He pointed to the £160m Advantage West Midlands (AWM) has ‘in the kitty’ which the Treasury intends to take back. ‘We say it should be going to the LEPs in the region.’

His comments echoed those of CLES chair Michael Ward during the Summit’s opening plenary.

The government announced last week that the disposal of RDA land and property assets would be handled by the Homes and Communities Agency, which said it would work with LEPs and others to ensure maximum impact. Mr Mathews said AWM’s land bank could be critically important to the region’s LEPs.

He also warned of increasing concern about the gap that would be left in the first half of 2012 after RDAs close and while LEPs are still getting up to speed.

‘There are some excellent people on LEP boards. But there are concerns around how long we an survive with the lack of support we’re getting. Some business people will eventually become quite peeved about the effort being put in without results.’

He added that it wasn’t ‘about money as such’ but more about the commitment from government. Just as he would expect to invest in his business, government should make an investment in LEPs, said Mr Mathews.

But he stressed the end of RDAs was an opportunity for LEPs to show how they can be more reactive and use better local knowledge to have a sustained impact.

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