Angry reaction to EEDA bonuses

BONUSES of more than a quarter-of-a-million pounds have been paid to staff of a publicly-funded organisation that will cease to exist at the end of the month.

It was revealed last week that the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), formed by the Labour Government but axed by the coalition, has marked its termination by paying �264,892 in bonuses to 203 individuals since last May.

The organisation, based in Histon, was one of nine regional development agencies set up by Labour to drive economic growth across the country.

The bodies claimed to be successful in boosting investment and employment – in its most recent statement of accounts EEDA declared it had been responsible for creating “22,000 jobs, improving the skills of 114,000 people and helping 7,700 businesses start up”. But on taking power coalition ministers argued it was difficult to prove RDAs’ success and suggested much of the progress they laid claim to could have happened without them at a far lower cost.

In 2009/10, EEDA spent �133m before its budget was reduced in 2010/11, when it spent �84m. Parliament then passed the Public Bodies Act in 2011 scrapping RDAs and passing their responsibilities to other bodies.

The final bonus payment to staff has angered some groups and lent weight to the decision to scrap the organisations.

Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly said: “I am not aware of any of the details of these EEDA bonus payments. However, given that we are in a time of austerity and the Government is trying to make significant savings, the payment of bonuses in these closing RDAs seems to me to run counter to this policy. It makes me even more confident in our decision to close down these unaccountable quangos.”

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Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, added: “Given that RDAs were scrapped by the coalition Government because their effectiveness was in serious doubt, it is difficult to see why these bonuses were paid. This is particularly so in the present economic climate. It’s just as well that we scrapped these quangos.”

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “The closure of the East of England Development Agency has been long overdue. It’s unacceptable for an agency that presided over a legacy of failure and waste to leave taxpayers with a six figure bill for golden goodbyes. Regional development agencies were famous for throwing away our cash. There’s no excuse for bonuses for bureaucrats after the Government pulled the plug.”

None of the officials involved with EEDA would comment.