Quangos slammed over public sector awards

Controversial quangos set up to boost England's regional economies award almost two-thirds of all grants to other public sector groups, research found today.

Of a total £2.9 billion in grants paid out by regional development agencies (RDAs) in 2007-08 and 2008-09, £1.8bn (62%) went to public sector organisations or projects, an investigation by the TaxPayers' Alliance revealed.

The research also found that £3.1m was awarded to trade unions, with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and its regional divisions handed £2.6m, while large private companies such as E.on, BAE Systems and JP Morgan also received funds.

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said the findings called into question the RDAs' claims to be focused on supporting local business as he accused them of lacking "either success or legitimacy".

RDAs were set up under Labour to "spread economic prosperity and opportunity to everyone in the nine regions of England", according to the bodies' website, but the coalition Government pledged to scrap them.

The RDA website also says the bodies "take a business-led approach and bring vitality and expertise to the task of economic development and regeneration in the regions".

After obtaining details of every grant made by RDAs through Freedom of Information requests, the TaxPayers' Alliance found:

:: London Development Agency awarded £379,041,210 in grants to the public sector, out of a total of £452,714,267 (83.7%);

:: North West RDA awarded £361,609,021 out of £488,416,796 (74%) to the public sector;

:: One North East awarded £228,644,794 out of £315,234,287 to the public sector (72.5%);

:: Yorkshire Forward awarded £259,045,651 out of £451,104,915 (57.4%) to the public sector;

:: South West RDA awarded £126,066,997 out of £235,119,625 (53.6%) to the public sector;

:: South East England Development Agency awarded £123,663,498 out of £238,218,427 to the public sector;

:: Advantage West Midlands awarded £133,225,289 out of £281,660,197 (47.3%) to the public sector;

:: East of England Development Agency awarded £98,974,435 out of £224,333,318 (44.1%) to the public sector;

:: East Midlands Development Agency awarded £70,945,864 out of £192,121,079 (36.9%) to the public sector.

Big companies also benefited, with the North West RDA awarding grants worth a total of £4.3m to global defence firm BAE Systems, as well as handing £550,000 to investment bank JP Morgan.

The South East England Development Agency awarded energy giant E.on £50,000 in 2008-09, while One North East handed 3M - the makers of Scotch tape and Post-it notes - £270,000.

The coalition Government pledged to replace RDAs with "local enterprise partnerships", bringing councils and business together.

Previous calculations by the Liberal Democrats estimated that scrapping the bodies would save £2.3bn a year.

Mr Elliott called on ministers to act quickly, saying: "The regional development agencies are hugely wasteful and ineffective, and they should all be abolished.

"These quangos have claimed for years to be focused on business, but in reality the majority of their grants have been going to other bodies in the public sector.

"With a huge budget deficit, the RDAs should be at the top of the list for abolition to save money.

"We simply can't afford to spend billions on organisations that fail to fulfil their mission, and the RDAs lack any claim to either success or legitimacy."

Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said: "The Regional Development Agencies are too distant and unaccountable, meaning that taxpayers' money meant for regeneration and economic development have not been spent in the best way possible.

"The new Government will devolve down their funding and role to new partnerships of local councils and local firms, to ensure that taxpayers and deprived communities get a better deal."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory