Last week I wrote about the abolition of one of the local regeneration quangos, Hull Forward. Since then, Hull Forward has been winning the PR war, and there is a popular misconception in the city that regeneration work will now stop. It wasn’t helped by Cllr Rick Welton, the cabinet portfolio holder responsible for regeneration, who was interviewed by Peter Levy on BBC Look North. He stated Hull City Council would not be able to do as good a job as Hull Forward, which is complete nonsense, and thankfully his views are not shared by all of his colleagues.
Today, Yorkshire Forward is in the spotlight as it battles for its own survival. The TPA has long campaigned for the abolition of Regional Development Agencies (RDAS). To read a report we published in 2008, click here. There are two main reasons why I would like to see Yorkshire Forward abolished. It is unaccountable to the people it is supposed to serve and it has not been a driver for economic change, and has therefore been a waste of money.
Yorkshire Forward – in common with all RDAs – is only accountable to ministers who fund it. Getting a grant approved involves a hugely burdonsome bureaucratic process and if you look at the accounts of, for example, Hull Forward and the Bridlington Renaissance Partnership, you will find out huge sums of money are paid to those unelected and largely unaccountable local quangos. From what people tell me, the partnership is far from popular in Bridlington. Local small businesses are unhappy that our money is being spent on consultants and architects telling them what is good for them. If they want to complain, their councillors cannot help them in any way, as the ‘renaissance’ is not under local authority control. This has to stop and any future regeneration projects must become fully accountable.
The UK’s recovery must be lead by the private sector. One thing we have learned over the past decade is we cannot afford a huge public sector. Small businesses are the life-blood of the British economy, and it is essential they get the support they need. A reduction in the rate of corporation tax small businesses pay will allow them to invest in their companies. An increase in the threshold small businesses have to pay corporation tax would also help them enormously. This can be achieved if RDAs are abolished, and the money saved put in this area.
We can no longer afford to pump money into ineffective quangos, and handing control of the regeneration purse strings to local authorities will allow you and I to question how our money is being spent. The more accountability there is, the less scope there is to waste our taxes.
I will discussing Yorkshire Forward with Peter Levy tonight on BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire at 6.30pm.