Regional development agencies and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill - Business and Enterprise Committee Contents



1. This Report examines the role and effectiveness of regional development agencies, with a focus on the impact of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill[1] on economic development policy. The relevant clauses of the Bill[2] are the product of the Review of sub-national economic development and regeneration.[3]

Committee inquiry

2. The Committee's inquiry was intended as an opportunity to consider the general issue of sub-national governance in economic development policy and, particularly, the role of regional development agencies (RDAs) in undertaking this. Accordingly, when the Business and Enterprise Committee announced its inquiry into the role and effectiveness of RDAs on 3 June 2008, it asked for evidence on:

3. The launch of the inquiry, however, coincided with the Government's proposals to reform sub-national governance through the Review of sub-national economic development and regeneration (sub-national review or SNR) and the inquiry examined these proposals in depth.

4. During the Government's consultation on the SNR proposals, the Committee called for written evidence and took oral evidence. 114 written submissions were received, a significant number for a committee inquiry and indicative of the interest in this issue.[4] The Committee took oral evidence from representatives of the private sector and local authorities at its meeting on 7 October 2008 and from RDAs on 14 October 2008.

5. When the Government revised its proposals as a result of the consultation, the Committee invited written submissions on the revised proposals and took evidence on these, and the recently -introduced Bill, from Pat McFadden MP, Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, whose remit includes RDAs, at its meeting on 15 December 2008.

6. Members endeavoured to visit the RDAs in their regions and the Chairman and Mr Anthony Wright MP visited the development agency for the North East of England, One NorthEast, in October 2008 as there are no Committee Members from that region. The Committee had also previously visited the West Midlands development agency, Advantage West Midlands, in May 2008 and the Scottish development agency, Scottish Enterprise, in June 2008 as part of its inquiry into creating a higher value-added economy. Inevitably, these visits provided the opportunity to discuss wider issues regarding the role of development agencies in promoting economic development and supporting businesses at sub-national level (although Scottish Enterprise lies outside the scope of this report on the English RDAs).

7. The Committee extends its thanks to all the individuals and organisations who took the time to provide evidence to assist Members with this inquiry.

Structure of the report

8. This Report is divided into two sections. Chapter 2 considers the broader issue of sub-national governance of economic development issues and RDAs' effectiveness in performing this function. As the inquiry evolved away from these broader issues, the Committee considers that these conclusions about the general role of regional development agencies are preliminary only and this is something that the Committee, or a successor, may wish to return to in future.

9. Chapters 3-7 focus on the SNR; chapter 3 provides a summary of the SNR proposals and process and chapters 4-7 each highlight a key group of SNR proposals:

10. Each SNR chapter sets out the:

  • initial SNR proposals (set out in the original SNR document, July 2007, and consultation document, March 2008);
  • issues raised in written and oral evidence to these initial SNR proposals;
  • revised SNR proposals, if applicable as not all the proposals were revised following the Government's consultation (set out in the consultation responses document, November 2008, and the Bill);
  • issues raised in written and oral evidence to these revised SNR proposals; and
  • the Committee's conclusions and recommendations.

11. It should be noted, however, that the conclusions and recommendations contained in chapters 3-6 are based on the Bill as first introduced into the House of Lords. Some of the issues relating to the SNR proposals or Bill highlighted in this Report might have been addressed during the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords.[5] At the time of making this Report, the Lords are considering the Bill at Committee stage and no amendments relating to the economic development aspects of the Bill have been agreed.

1   Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill - Back

2   Clauses 63 - 132 - Part 4, Local authority economic assessments; Part 5, Regional strategy; Part 6, Economic prosperity boards and combined authorities; and Part 7, Multi-area agreements, relate to economic development. Back

3   Review of sub national economic development and regeneration (SNR1) - Back

4   Business and Enterprise Committee - Back

5   For the purposes of this report, the overall review of sub-national economic development and regeneration process will be referred to as the SNR process. The initial review document published in July 2007 will be referred to as SNR1, the consultation document published on 31 March 2008 will be referred to as SNR2 and the Government's revised proposals published on 25 November 2008 will be referred to as SNR3. Back

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