Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

RDA’s or LEP’s?

Published Tuesday 24 August, 2010

Just because RDA's were unnecessary in the South West, South East and East of England doesn't mean they weren't both successful and needed in the Midlands and the North. Look at how the closing of Longbridge was dealt with. Look at the brilliant work in the North East and Yorkshire. Why do we always have to have a one size fits all?

Challenges are different. Skills base and ethnic/age/ density profiles are different. But the best thing about the RDA's was that they had, by law, to be business driven and business led. So action was taken and our money spent independent of party political advantage and currying favour with voters. Were they bloated? Yes, – Did they need sharper focus? Yes, – Could money be saved? You bet it could. Did we need one in certain parts of the country? No. Were the geographical areas drawn in Whitehall to define a region good enough? Not only no, but some of the initial decisions in that department were potty. Therein lay an inbuilt lack of focus. How do you plan for Swindon and Cornwall in the same area? Dover and Newbury? Stoke and Hereford? Balmy... always was. But throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not the answer.

LEP's ... Politically driven and managed...and turkeys never vote for Christmas. Confused in objectives and constituency. Taking the eye off the ball or what?! Interestingly when I was Director General of the CBI my distinct enthusiasm of RDA's was a tad at odds with the more guarded acceptance from many members, whose reluctance grew in direct proportion to how far down the country you came. With this new "plan" the CBI is universally against it!  Richard Lambert told me so last week. Business especially north of Watford deserves better than this.