English regions get £150m cash boost

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Indy Politics

England's regions are to be given a £150m cash injection to tackle the North-South divide.

England's regions are to be given a £150m cash injection to tackle the North-South divide.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said that while there were deprived areas in all parts of the country, it was clear some regions were not fully sharing in the nation's prosperity. He said the money amounted to a "revolution" in Whitehall thinking and would make a real difference to people's lives.

The money will be handed over to England's eight Regional Development Agencies, which will be given the freedom to decide how to spend it. The agencies are expected to use the money to fund training and scientific research, attract inward investment or improve infrastructure. It has not yet been announced how the money will be divided.

Mr Byers said: "I want to see every region in Britain have the best possible opportunity of matching the standards of the best. We can't suddenly turn Hull into Hampstead or Tyneside into Tunbridge Wells, but we can make sure that the winners' circle is widened and that people all over Britain are fit for the future, no matter what part of the country they live in."

Giving the development agencies freedom to decide how the money is spent will mean that spending is tailor-made for each region's needs, Mr Byers said. "This flexible way of using money will be taken further by allowing regions to combine the money with cash from other departments. It may not sound much but it is a revolution in Whitehall. It will make a real difference to people's lives and the health of the businesses they work in."

The shadow Environment Secretary, Archie Norman, said the initiative was "too little, too late", and he was afraid the money "will just be dissipated".