Karen Allen

I fought South Shields at the May 2010 General Election for the Conservatives, gaining a 6.4% swing which was a 4% vote increase. The Conservatives polled 7,886 up from 5,207 in 2005. I was born in the North East and grew up in South Shields. I currently live in London and am employed as a Director at Lloyd's Broker Howden International.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Conservative RDA Policy

Last year we set out our policy for strengthening local economic development in our paper Control Shift. In line with this commitment to review detailed aspects of implementation we wanted now to lay out key elements of our policy.

The Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) are the remains of John Prescott’s failed experiment of regional government. Since they were formed in 1999 they have spent £17 billion, yet the gap between the greater south east and the rest of the English regions has widened. So, whilst we recognise the RDAs have had some local successes, we believe that the current arrangements can be improved. The Government has tacitly admitted this by deciding to cut RDA budgets by £300m last year.

We want to strengthen local economic development and urban regeneration. We need organisations involved in delivering economic growth to be at their most efficient and entirely focused on helping businesses, creating jobs and delivering regeneration.

We have already pledged to hand housing and planning powers back to local planning authorities.

We also want to see lines of accountability for development bodies going to local government and the local business communities, but equally we need to re-establish clear national leadership for key business policies. So, for example, we will overhaul small business support and we will end the counter-productive competition overseas between UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and English RDAs.

We intend to strengthen local economies by enabling business and elected local authorities to come forward with proposals for new local enterprise partnerships to replace the regional bodies.

The boundaries of local enterprise partnerships will reflect natural economic areas. If the local authorities and businesses in a given region decide that the current regional boundary reflects their local economic area and decide to form a regionally based local enterprise partnership, then, in line with our principle of localism, we will respect their view, under the new arrangements.

Business will have a strong voice under the new arrangements. At least fifty per cent of the boards of the new partnerships will be representatives from local commerce and industry and a leading local business person will chair each new partnership.

We are drawing up detailed plans which will ensure that the transition to local enterprise partnerships will be smooth, allowing for the appropriate fulfilment of ongoing projects, grants and contracts, including projects which also draw on EU Structural Funds.

In London, the LDA is different to other RDAs. It is funded centrally, but run by the elected Mayor. For this reason we believe it is for the Mayor and not Whitehall to determine the future of the LDA.

Alongside our proposals to provide new financial incentives, such as the Business Increase Bonus, we believe this policy will represent a new deal for local regeneration and economic development: namely locally-led agencies working in real economic areas, which bring business and civic leaders together in focused effective partnerships.

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