EEDA demise puts 200 jobs at risk

MORE than 200 jobs are at risk at a Cambridgeshire-based government agency that has helped to safeguard more than 4,000 jobs across the county.

MORE than 200 jobs are at risk at a Cambridgeshire-based government agency that has helped to safeguard more than 4,000 jobs across the county.

The East of England Development Agency, a quango set up by the Labour administration a decade ago, is to be scrapped in a cost-cutting move by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

Regional development agencies were set up to work with businesses to help development, employment, business efficiency and skills but the new government announced plans to abolish them, replacing them with “Local Enterprise Partnerships”, in last month’s Budget.

It is not yet clear if there is scope for the existing organisation to “transform” into the new body but a government White Paper, due to be published this summer, will set out the exact details, including time scales, of the change.

Will Pope, chairman of EEDA, said: “We are now in a time of change and clearly there is a planning and transition period to work through. In the meantime, it’s business as usual. EEDA is an effective and efficient organisation and our performance has recently been independently evaluated by the National Audit Office – concluding that we are a strong-performing organisation.

“EEDA will continue to work with local authorities and businesses to plan for the future and ensure a smooth and professional transition to the new arrangements for economic development. The key is making that process as seamless for businesses as possible.”

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As part of the Chancellor’s recent �6.2billion public cuts, regional development agencies were also asked to make �293million of savings this financial year, equating to approximately 20 per cent of the RDA’s overall budget.

It has now been confirmed that EEDA’s budget will be reduced by �24.9m, some 24 per cent of the 2010/11 budget.

Mr Pope said: “Although we recognise that the government has had to make some tough decisions to reduce the budget deficit, we are obviously disappointed to lose this investment in the East of England.

“It does mean that EEDA will have to make some difficult decisions on reducing, delaying and withdrawing funding from a range of projects.

“We will be notifying those projects affected by reductions over the next couple of weeks.

“This is a setback for the East of England and we fully support the call from businesses for continued investment in a region that is leading the UK’s recovery from recession.”

The Tax Payers’ Alliance, which claims that more money is spent by RDA’s helping public bodies than private companies, has been campaigning for the organisations to be scrapped for three years.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “These quangos have been hugely expensive but there is no sound evidence that they have succeeded. Our investigation into EEDA’s grants and performance suggests they are more of a white elephant than a productive organisation.

“It’s time the Regional Development Agencies were consigned to the dustbin of history, saving taxpayers a lot of money.”