Agencies `neglect small companies'

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The Independent Online
Chris Godsmark

Business Correspondent

Regional development agencies across the UK should be drastically reformed to give a much bigger say to smaller companies, according to a study from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The report, to be submitted to the Government as part of its review of the development agencies, argues there is a widespread lack of co-ordination between different bodies, with too little co-ordination in the regions.

The BCC is proposing a network of regional economic partnerships, which would include locally based representatives from organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry, the Training and Enterprise Council and trade unions.

These regional development agencies and regional chambers would compile an economic plan, aimed at helping small and medium-sized firms as well as the large businesses which traditionally attract most aid. They would replace a proliferation of agencies and quangos set up by the previous Conservative governments, which the BCC criticised for lacking co-ordination.

Sir Desmond Pitcher, president of the North West Chambers of Commerce and chairman of United Utilities, said: "The real growth should come from small and medium sized businesses."

Sir Desmond declined to elaborate on controversy over his role at United Utilities, or to say whether he had agreed to shareholders' demands that he take early retirement.