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Over £15bn 'wasted' on development agencies

More than £15 billion has been 'wasted' on Regional Development Agencies in England, with local economies performing better before the 'failed quangos' were set up, a new report claimed today.

The TaxPayers' Alliance, which called for RDAs to be abolished, alleged they had contributed "nothing" since they were established in 1999 but had cost almost £600 per household.

A study by the group said that on almost every measure, including employment and economic growth, English regions performed better before 1999.

RDAs were "riddled" with waste and excess, including extravagant trips abroad, lavish conferences and "ludicrous" taxi expenses, claimed the report.

The 39 top earners employed by RDAs were paid over £100,000 each, it added.

Alliance political analyst Ben Farrugia said: "Regional Development Agencies have failed in their core mission to narrow the gap between the economic performance of England's regions.

"At a time when businesses are increasingly over-regulated and over-taxed, RDAs have become a symbol of wasteful bureaucratic excess.
They should be abolished before the Government hands them even greater powers.

"Abolishing the Regional Development Agencies would have no negative impact on the regions, given the RDAs' failure since 1999."

A Business Department spokesman said: "RDAs work to boost investment, economic development and regeneration and provide business support. They promote enterprise in disadvantaged areas, offer skills and training and help link up businesses and universities to foster business innovation.

"Between 2002 and 2008, RDA initiatives attracted investment of £8.2 billion into deprived areas."

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, speaking on behalf of all RDAs, said the report contained information which was "largely out of date, inaccurate and taken out of context".

But shadow local government secretary Eric Pickles agreed the regional quangos were not the best framework for delivering regeneration and development funding.