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CABORN CHAMPIONS REGIONAL CHAMBERS

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Regional chambers are critical to the success of regional development agencies, minister for the regions Richard Ca...
Regional chambers are critical to the success of regional development agencies, minister for the regions Richard Caborn has said.

Speaking at the chambers of commerce conference in Glasgow last week, Mr Caborn said: 'Let me emphasise to you all, it will be through the success of regional chambers, as well as RDAs, that the regional agenda will move forward.

'I know in some cases there has been concern that chambers could be talking shops and distracting RDAs from their real job, or that it would be difficult for business to get a share of the regional chamber action. But all the indications are that you and the other partners are striking hard but sensible bargains at regional level.'

The chambers, largely made up of councillors but including others such as academics and local business people, already exist in the north-west, East Midlands and West Midlands, and the government is considering applications from other areas. All eight are expected to be approved by mid-July (LGC, 28 May).

They will provide a mechanism through which RDAs can take account of regional views and be held accountable.

Mr Caborn said: 'With about five million people in each region, [RDAs] have the right critical mass to achieve the proper strategic overview, to successfully attract inward investment and to promote healthy competitiveness.

'But at the same time they will be small and sensitive enough to secure delivery at a local level.

'They will have a degree of influence and authority in their regions which will enable them to make a real difference to regional economics and regional competitiveness. They will have significant budgets of more than£800 million a year.'

Mr Caborn said RDAs should harness and co-ordinate regeneration work currently done by 'an average of between 70 and 100 bodies' in each region.

He made clear ministers 'want the RDAs to be lead bodies in Europe, co-ordinating economic development and regeneration at the regional level'.

The RDAs are drawing up their draft strategies for consultation, which have to be ready by July. The final document must be submitted to ministers by October.

RDAs such as South of England and East Midlands have opted for sub-regional strategies as well, allowing them to be more sensitive to local needs.

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