Think tank proposes RDA for the North

A new "mega" development agency to lead the economy of the North of England has been proposed this week by a think tank.

The Centre for Cities said that the super-agency should be created through a merger of One North East with its counterparts in the North West and Yorkshire. They beleive that the move would create an "economic powerhouse" helping to reduce the North-South divide, and would boost the revival of cities in Yorkshire and beyond.

The independent organisation said the regional development agencies (RDAs) were not delivering on their government targets of reducinge the gap in economic growth rates between the English regions, and promoting growth in all regions. In a report titled 'The Future of Regional Development Agencies', the Centre for Cities said that during the first seven years of the RDAs' existence, between 1999 to 2006, the economy in the South East grew by nearly 18%, whereas the rest of England's economy grew by 15%. The Centre for Cities predicts the growth gap will continue over the next decade.

To prevent this, the think tank suggest disbanding One North East, Yorkshire Forward, and the North West Regional Development Agency, replacing them with a single development agency for the North.

Dermot Finch, Director of the Centre for Cities, said: "There is great uncertainty about the future of RDAs. The Government says they are all crucial, but the Tories say they are terrible. The truth is somewhere in between: RDAs are needed more up North, less in the Greater South East. After the next general election, a single development agency for the North of England would be a good way forward."

Cold reception up North

Representatives from the Northern RDAs and the current collaboration effort, The Northern Way, were less keen on the idea.

Alan Clarke, One North East Chief Executive, said: "This report adds nothing of substance to our crucially important task of supporting businesses and protecting jobs at a time of economic uncertainty.

"It's debatable how much London-based think tanks know of the real challenges on the ground that Northern RDAs and their partners in Northern cities and regions are tackling. "We are very clear about the important leadership role RDAs have to play at this time of unprecedented economic instability and we will not be distracted from the task of supporting regional economies through tough times ahead."

Andrew Lewis, Director of the Northern Way, said: "The Northern Regional Development Agencies have an excellent record of collaboration through the Northern Way.

"Replacing this successful model with a pan-Northern Agency would undermine the progress being made on the ground. It makes no sense to manage economic development from Northumberland to Cheshire, Blackpool to Hull, Leeds to Carlisle, through a single agency, more remote from communities, and without the local links necessary for delivery.

"London-based think tanks would do best to focus on the real economic challenges in the cities and regions of the North."

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Reader’s comments

  1. Richard Simpson

    8:06 10 Dec 2008

    Why do think tanks believe that moving the furniture around is going to make any difference? They need to ween themselves off their obsession with structures. If their proposal was implemented and it did make a difference it would be to the detriment of the North East. Let's focus on making the existing structures more effective instead.

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