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Efforts to make the proposed regional development agencies more locally accountable won clear support from a cross-...
Efforts to make the proposed regional development agencies more locally accountable won clear support from a cross-party committee of MPs yesterday.

The commons environment, transport and regional affairs committee said RDAs should become more clearly answerable to regional chambers representing local authorities and other interests, reports The Financial Times (p10).

The proposasl will please the Local Government Association, which has launched a campaign to push for such a move in order to allay fears that RDAs will become no more than regional arms of central government.

The committe emphasised the fact that the RDAs as currently proposed might have trouble attracting the best quality board members and concluded that the agencies needed to be strengthened and 'established as more powerful institutions.'

There was also a call for the new bodies to control training budgets, contracting with training and enterprise councils to implement skills strategies, to contract with Business Links to provide business support; and to 'determine selective assistance rather than simply provide advice to ministers.'

The FT reports that another recommendation by the committee included a single unified budget for each agency with the power to switch funds between programmes.

The government was also urged to 'urgently address' the important matter of the RDAs fundraising powers - by means such as regional development bonds - after the white paper's failure to allow such powers.

Other recommendations included the inclusion of tourism in the RDAs' remit and that formal relationships with further and higher education institutes be established.

The committee also wants RDAs to take a central role in bidding for and allocating future European Union regional funding.

Clarification from Richard Caborn, minister for the regions, that the bill would enable RDAs to add powers without further primary legislation was welcomed by the committee but there was still 'considerable uncertainty' about a number of matters, including how RDAs would relate to government regional offices.

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