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North-east RDA says majority of assets should remain local

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Around two-thirds of the £54.6m in assets held by the north-east regional development agency could be transferred to councils with their eventual receipts ring-fenced for the region, the agency has said.

One North East’s (ONE) assets and liabilities plan (attached right), obtained by LGC, provides a series of recommendations to ministers for the disposal of the agency’s land, buildings and investment funds ahead of the RDA’s closure in March 2012.

Of the agency’s 48 land and building assets, the agency recommends that 13 be transferred to relevant local authorities to ensure their further development before an eventual sale, with a further 15 sold directly to councils, with the key Science Central site in Newcastle be sold in a 50:50 split between Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University.

The agency said in transferring assets to councils it expected the local authorities to prepare the sites for development and then sell them on for the best price “reasonably obtainable at that time” with receipts payable to the Department for Communities & Local Government or the national housing quango Homes & Communitiers Agency.

But the report added: “The agency will be seeking written agreement from DCLG/HCA that proceeds received by them under this solution will be utilised for the economic development and regeneration of the north east”.

The agency also recommends that five of the assets be sold in part to local authorities and in part to the private sector, with four transferred to the HCA, including the Middlehaven development in Middlesbrough, and one handed to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (DBIS).

The report recommends that 10 of the assets be put on the open market.

The report also proposed that its two public-private property vehicles, valued at £130m, be transferred to the newly established North East Economic Partnership - a body representing councils and businesses across the region. The report said that following consultation with partners, there was a “strong commitment to retain the value of these partnerships in the region”.

In the forward to the report ONE chief executive Alan Clarke and chairman Paul Callaghan said it had been “extremely challenging” to produce the report in “less than six working weeks”.

They said any assets acquired by the agency had been done so for their “long-term economic development potential” and said that despite the impending closure the RDA still had an obligation to “continue to further the economic development of the north-east”.

However, they added that in drafting the asset plan they had been instructed by ministers to “achieve value for money and meet the receipts targets set by government”. “We are under an obligation to deliver maximum value on public sector investments for the government as it continues to take measures to address the national fiscal deficit,” they said.

 

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