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Mandelson - The Economy must be top priority for RDAs

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The RDAs are making a real difference to the economy, an independent study has found. The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers has shown that, overall, every pound invested by Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) will generate at least 4.50 for the regional economy.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said:

"The RDAs are working. We have clear evidence that their programmes are helping to drive regional economies - creating jobs, helping businesses and boosting skills.

"They are on the front line of our response to the global downturn. But their medium and long term interventions and investments are equally important to prepare for the upturn. It will help ensure that we emerge stronger.

"I think RDAs can do even more. They must relentlessly focus on economic recovery and growth and are ideally placed to help lay down the commercial infrastructure of the 21st Century.

"I am confident that the RDAs can rise to this challenge. I have asked them to report back to me by the end of May and will be closely following their progress."

Notes

1. The Secretary of State's statement to Parliament on Tuesday 31 March, was published alongside the independent evaluation of RDAs undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The full statement is attached below and the evaluation is available via - http://www.berr.gov.uk/rdaevaluation

2. The Regional Development Agencies have agreed to provide detailed responses to the Secretary of State by the end of May 2009.

3. RDAs are responsible for the delivery of Solutions for Business, the government's streamlined portfolio of business support products, which concluded its rollout today. For more information on SfB, see http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/enterprise/simplifyingbusinesssuppor t/page44804.html

ANNEX A - LORD MANDELSON'S STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT

It is ten years since the RDAs were set up, as business-led organisations, to promote enterprise throughout the country and drive up economic growth in their regions. They provide regional economic leadership, co-ordinate strategy, deliver vital programmes to provide real help to people and business today, invest for our future, and help join up the full range of public sector economic activity in the region. They have brought inward investment successes to the regions and worked closely with UKTI in supporting the growth of UK businesses through international trade. They also lead the regional response in times of economic difficulty, offering real help now to businesses and people to support them through the downturn and ensure they are well placed to respond to the opportunities in the recovery.

The Independent Performance Assessments carried out in 2006/7 by the National Audit Office showed that all of the RDAs were operationally performing Well or Strongly. We now have an independent evaluation of the economic impact of RDAs, commissioned by BERR and RDAs and published today by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, demonstrating the considerable success that RDAs have had in improving their region's economy. The PwC report finds that the RDAs add real value: supporting business, helping people to increase their employability and productivity, and investing in infrastructure and communities. PwC assessed that RDA programmes will generate at least 4.50 for every 1 spent over the programmes' lifetime.

I have placed copies of the PwC report in the library of the House. All regions have significant centres of industrial strength and competitive advantage. For these centres to thrive and provide the foundation for our national economic success, national, regional and sub-regional bodies need to align their efforts to provide the best possible environment for business. The RDAs have a key leadership role. They catalyse investment in key infrastructure that will support the sustainable economic environment needed for the future. Through the funding they provide, the leadership they give, particularly in developing the new single regional strategy with the Leaders Boards, and their links with national and local partners, they have a prime role in delivering industrial policy, regenerating the economy, and moving to a low carbon economy. This delivery is built on RDAs' precise regional knowledge and their ability to engage and work with other regional and sub-regional partners to lever and powerfully align funding and priorities at the national, sub-regional and local level.

In current economic conditions, we need a relentless focus on helping business and fostering growth and jobs. RDAs will be developing a different strategic mix of investments and interventions for the short-term, the medium and longer-term. The new guidance for the single regional strategy to be issued in the summer is an opportunity to set out a clear national framework setting out how RDAs, with regional and local partners, will work together to deliver sustainable growth, housing and tackling climate change, including through the Solutions for Business portfolio.

I am asking the RDAs to focus, working with and through others:

* As an immediate priority, on providing assistance to business;

* for the medium-term. on stimulating the recovery and growth; and

* for the longer-term, on restructuring and developing each region strengths, supporting its growth and competitiveness in the future. Through such investment, businesses will not only survive but thrive, with more jobs and employment created for the people in all parts of the country. This will be delivered more successfully by aligning RDAs' business-focused capital expenditure with that of other bodies such as the Homes and Communities Agency, and sub-regional and local partners. Our ambition is to maximise economic benefits and through them the impact on people's life chances, by targeting investment firmly on regenerating and strengthening each region's economy.

The PwC report gives the RDAs and Government more widely, an opportunity to identify which types of investments and interventions have the greatest economic impact and in which circumstances. The evidence from the report will inform the conclusions of Public Value Programme review of RDAs to be announced in the Budget. More immediately, I have agreed with the RDAs that they should:

* reprioritise and focus sharply on measures to help their regions through the downturn and prepare for the upturn. They will look at the strategic mix of their interventions and use the evaluation work to arrive at a programme with maximum impact in the short and medium term to address the acute problems of the present and to lay strong foundations for recovery.

* Ensure that robust mechanisms are in place uniformly across the network to embed learning from the evaluation into future investment planning and that experience is shared effectively across the RDA network. RDAs will also be working with BERR and others to produce new appraisal guidance which will set out a shared understanding of what, in the light of the evaluation, works well and what does not.

* Draw extensively on the evaluation results and other evidence to refine their investment frameworks, to help them choose between competing investment projects to maximise the economic return to the region and the national economy. The result will provide an even more robust basis for ensuring the effective use of funds, particularly in ensuring that investment in physical regeneration complements business investment.

* Update me on the immediate priorities they have agreed with their Regional Ministers and partners and stakeholders such as the Homes and Communities Agency and local authorities. These should be set out in corporate plan updates so that there is clear visibility of everything they will be doing for the region over the period. This will provide the basis for more open and firmer performance management.

RDAs have agreed to provide detailed responses by the end of May.


About the Author

Crown Copyright. Material taken from the BERR- Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform replacing DTI - Department for Trade and Industry. Reproduced under the terms and conditions of the Click-Use Licence.


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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-03-31 14:08:31 in Business Articles

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