You’ve done great! ps. You’re fired

Good timing and luck are everything in politics. Unfortunately for the regional development agencies, they have not been overendowed with either. They long ago shattered a lorry load of mirrors.

Good timing and luck are everything in politics. Unfortunately for the regional development agencies, they have not been overendowed with either. They long ago shattered a lorry load of mirrors. Probably in the same vehicle that mounted a cracked pavement, then careered under a row of ladders before promptly running over a black cat.

But last week the National Audit Office gave the eight English regional development agencies outside London a glowing report.

In its Independent Supplementary Review of Regional Development Agencies, the NAO found that six of the eight RDAs it evaluated were rated strong or good against a basket of key indicators such as their development and delivery of programmes; how they implement improvements plans; and their work on performance management and evaluation. The remaining two agencies were rated good or adequate.

The reviews focus on the strengths of the processes and procedures in each agency and provides further evidence of their efficacy; undermining the Government’s case for their wholesale dismantling. Of course, in the topsy-turvy world of the Lib-Con coalition this is akin to saying ‘congratulations! We have found you innocent – but you’re still facing the firing squad in the morning’.

In a surreal response to its own strong performance rating, Advantage West Midlands (AWM) announced that all its staff are now being invited to apply for redundancy. A curious conflation of events: you do your job well and then get axed for your troubles.

But the need for regional economic support remains compelling. As AWM’s report finds:

“In the year to April 2010, the [West Midlands] region saw the sharpest decline in output and the fastest shedding of jobs of any of the English regions. The region now has the joint-highest unemployment rate in the UK.”

What a strange way of making policy. It simply does not matter what their performance is like or what endorsements they receive, or what real need they address; the Tories simply do not like RDAs. Period.

Gone is the New Labour credo of what matters is what works, to be replaced by what-matters-is-what-we-like. This neanderthal approach to public policy exposes Cameroon pragmatism for what it is: neo-Thatcherite ideological vindictiveness.

Even more extraordinary is that this pointless upheaval is taking place at a time when economic support in the regions is needed more than ever. This is the first time in the economic cycle where the value of having regional economic champions has been really tested. So just when businesses are frantically clawing their way through the remains of the downturn and need government on their side, they are instead left with RDAs as demoralised husks where the staff that remain are focused on buffing up their CVs.

Of course, many who will leave with severance pay-offs will probably get re-employed by the various Local Economic Partnerships which are set to replace RDAs in due course. So this is not only a ludicrously, mistimed piece of economic vandalism; but a potentially lousy deal for the taxpayer as well.

And for what? Just so Eric Pickles can leave his podgy pawprints on the shape of policy? In an interview with Total Politics magazine, he claims to want to allow local authorities to put in place whatever local political management arrangements they want. But at the regional level, it seems, ideology rules.

As a footnote, it is worth pointing out that significant reports of this nature usually merit a press release from the NAO. Despite being offered the opportunity to explain this unusual omission, the NAO declined Left Foot Forward’s invitation to clarify why no release had been written. We are left to ponder as to why our independent spending watchdog seems to want to bury good news that undermines the new government’s policy on RDAs.

The plot thickens. We will be returning to the matter in due course.

23 Responses to “You’ve done great! ps. You’re fired”

  1. Chris Montgomery

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy

  2. Matthew Sinclair

    I think you should make your status as a former head of Communications at Advantage West Midlands a little clearer in this post. It seems relevant.

  3. Shamik Das

    Matt – I think it’s clear enough. If you click on Kevin’s name at the top of the piece, you’re taken through to his bio, the first line of which says: “Kevin is a former head of communications at Advantage West Midlands”. That aside, what are your thoughts on the actual content of the article?

  4. Chris Johnston

    National Audit Office rates 6/8 RDAs outside London 'strong or good'. //bit.ly/cUz7uH #falseeconomy

  5. yorkierosie

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy

  6. B Bigelow

    "Ideology rules" RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy #ukpolitics

  7. Anon E Mouse

    Kevin Meagher – Typical sour grapes biased report from the vested interests brigade.

    “Gone is the New Labour credo of what matters is what works” – are you serious?

    HIP’s didn’t work but Labour still did it anyway and wrecked the housing market in one go. And what about ID Cards? How much did the British taxpayer chuck into that little venture only to have it scrapped later?

    Selecting Labour leader without a leadership campaign and the subsequent installation of the same man as Prime Minister – that didn’t work and before you start dribbling in rage remember Blair said he’d serve a full third term.

    The sooner these huge Labour job’s for the boys schemes are scrapped the better and as for Eric Pickles that’s called democracy Kevin, get over it or the Labour Party will never move on.

    Nick Clegg’s Freedom Act can’t come soon enough and the New Labour – warmongering – pro big business – hammer the poor party can sit and watch as it’s pet projects, like these stupid regional assemblies, are dismantled one by one…

  8. Trakgalvis

    You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy via @leftfootfwd

  9. Martin Johnston

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy

  10. Emma Coften

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb

  11. Robert

    The way this has been handled is just another brick in the wall that separates Tory govenment from good government.

    Sad but not unexpected.

  12. Alex Marsh

    "Gone is the New Labour credo of what matters is what works, to be replaced by what-matters-is-what-we-like". Source: //bit.ly/cFZonb

  13. Claire Spencer

    Great @leftfootfwd post on the scrappage of quality RDAs //bit.ly/945fmB & @dgbailey's on making the most of LEPs //bit.ly/bJU4Gy

  14. Alan McKechan

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy >Shame after all SWRDA did on Portland

  15. Chris

    @Anon

    “Nick Clegg’s Freedom Act can’t come soon enough and the New Labour – warmongering – pro big business – hammer the poor party can sit and watch as it’s pet projects, like these stupid regional assemblies, are dismantled one by one…”

    Are you on crack? Or are you the LibDem version of the twat-o-tron?

    The LibCons budget hammered the poor and rewarded big business, the fucking brass neck of you LibDems is amazing, the LibDems are becoming just another astroturfing tory front.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Chris – Which part of my “New Labour – warmongering – pro big business – hammer the poor party” was incorrect?

    1. “Warmongering” – Iraq, Afganistan…
    2. “Pro big business” – The bankers STILL got their bonuses…
    3. “Hammer the poor” – The removal of the 10p tax band, proposed increase in NI…

    The coalition has introduced a bankers tax, increased the personal allowance of ordinary workers and stopped Labour’s jobs tax…

    This is supposed to be an evidence based blog Chris not one set up for your (foul mouthed) opinions.

    So where’s your evidence for your above comments about me?

  17. Anon E Mouse

    Chris – What’s a twat-o-tron btw?

  18. PCS GONW Branch

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy

  19. John Humphries

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/cFZonb #ConDemNation #FalseEconomy

  20. Sevillista

    @mattsinclair

    Just like the TPA declares a list of its financial backers to make its vested interests transparent in any article you pen, right?

    The logical conclusion must be that your organisation should be ignored as a vehicle for a tiny number of very wealthy people, many of whom do not actually pay tax in this country

  21. Robster

    RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/945fmB

  22. John Ruddy

    Pickles wants Localism, as long as they do what he wants RT @leftfootfwd: You've done great! ps. You're fired //bit.ly/945fmB

  23. More woe for Clegg as Ed Miliband slams Coalition’s 100-day record | Left Foot Forward

    […] tax bombshell; the cuts to business support, from Sheffield Forgemasters to the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies; slashing the number of university places; axing the Green Investment Bank; abandoning support for […]

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