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RDAs SHOULD HAVE MORE RESOURCES, SAYS PRESCOTT

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Hansard 11 July: Column 686 ...
Hansard 11 July: Column 686

John Prescott hinted at new powers and more cash for regional development agencies when replying to MPs' questions.

Ken Purchase, Labour MP for Wolverhampton North-east, said the competitive agenda in a global economy as it applied to the regions was best driven by further decentralisation to the RDAs and to increase their powers.

The sooner their lines of accountability could be developed, the sooner they could take more control of national budgets.

Mr Prescott said the RDAs had had an excellent first year, putting£400 million into regenerating the most deprived areas and creating or saving some 35,000 jobs.

'I have always believed that the RDAs can play a major part in reducing disparities of economic growth within and between the regions, and in the record level of inward investment that Britain has just achieved. To that extent, I believe that the RDAs should be given more influence - and, indeed, more resources - so that they can get on with their job,' he added.

Shadow environment secretary Archie Norman accused Mr Prescott of abusing RDAs by packing them with Labour supports and cronies. He claimed that RDA membership contained six times as many Labour supporters as Conservatives, and that 70% of all board members with known affiliations were Labour supporters or trade unionists.

But Mr Prescott said he believed the RDAs properly reflected industrial interests as well as local authority and political representation in the region. About 100 Tory councillors were involved in the regional chambers alone.

Mr Norman said the RDAs were costing£17 million in administration alone while spending on urban regeration had gone down compared with that under the Conservative government.

He pointed out that the DETR select committee last week described regional intervention under the present government as 'confused and badly co-ordinated'.

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