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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Fears over Cumbria funding as Northwest Development Agency faces chop

THE Government’s planned closure of all Britain’s regional development agencies could spell disaster for West Cumbria, Workington MP Tony Cunningham has warned.

Business Secretary Vince Cable on Wednesday said regional development agencies did not give consistently good value for money and all would be replaced with new enterprise partnerships.

But Mr Cunningham said: “The Northwest Development Agency has been a huge success as far as West Cumbria is concerned, pumping millions of pounds in, and if that money is lost it will be a disaster.”

He said the move could jeopardise Britain’s Energy Coast Masterplan, which is funded by the NWDA and involves major improvements to areas including business, employment and transport.

The agency is also behind the funding of a planned £1m maritime centre in Maryport harbour, with a lifeboat station and a maritime museum, and has pledged up to £10m towards the redevelopment of Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital. In both cases the money is yet to be legally committed to the projects.

Mr Cunningham said he would appeal to the Government not to let those projects suffer.

Only last week, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would do his best to support West Cumbria following its recent tragedies.

Responding to questions in the House of Commons, Mr Cable said the form the new partnerships would take would be decided in consultation with councils and businesses in each area.

He said: “This has to be enterprise-led, not bureaucrat-led or politician-led.”

In some cases the new bodies might cover the same geographical area as the existing agencies but their functions would be different.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the final closure of regional development agencies was expected to be complete by March 2012.

In the meantime, the Government plans to shave £270m off regional development agency budgets.

NWDA chief executive Steve Broomhead said: “The NWDA remains totally focused on delivering economic support to enable the region to emerge from this downturn in a strong position.

“The NWDA accepts the need for some changes given the current pressure on public finances.

“What we do know is that a successful recovery in the North West and the north of England is absolutely critical for the future of the country.

“Right now we have a significant job to do and we will continue to deliver renewed growth here in the North West, helping to create the stable, competitive and growing UK economy we all want to see.”

Have your say

the statement from the government is almost a cut-and-paste of the one they put out in 1995 when they first announced the creation of the regional development agencies - 'enterprise not....politican-led' etc. So is the proposal really about dismantling one established (elephant-sized) QUANGO just to replace it with another? Probably. If so, the costs of staff redundancies alone should safely soak up the first years' allocations of funding that should be going to projects in Cumbria and the region.....

Posted by Rob Studley on 21 June 2010 at 09:14

We need to save the NWDA at all costs!

Posted by Barry Broomhead on 18 June 2010 at 14:58

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