regional development Agencies act 1998
N.B. The Government announced the abolition of the nine Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in England – eight regional agencies through the Public Bodies Bill and the London Development Agency through the Localism Bill - on 22 June 2010.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills stated that it wished to ensure an orderly transition and closure of RDA programmes that maintained focus on delivery. RDAs transferred a range of assets, liabilities, functions and activities - including ongoing project responsibilities - to other public sector bodies.
All Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) closed on 31 March 2012 and were abolished on 1 July 2012.
Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) were non-departmental public bodies, charged with driving economic development, business efficiency, investment and competitiveness, employment, skills and sustainable development in their regions.
In England there were nine RDAs: One NorthEast; the Northwest Development Agency; Yorkshire Forward; Advantage West Midlands; the East Midlands Development Agency; the East of England Development Agency; the South West of England Regional Development Agency; the South East England Development Agency; and the London Development Agency.
The principal duty on RDAs was to draw up and keep under constant review a 5 to 10-year Regional Economic Strategy. These set out detailed plans of how the RDA will pursue its various objectives and full analyses of the region's economy.
The Regional Economic Strategy was required to cohere with national economic development policy and to take account of Treasury economic forecasts. It had also to be developed in partnership with regional interested parties and stakeholders, in the public, private and civil society sectors.
RDAs received funding from a single resource pool, to which the DCLG, BERR, DIUS, Defra, DCMS and UKTI all contributed.
In addition to their Single Budget the RDAs had taken over the management of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Rural Development Programme, which together added substantially to the amounts that individual RDAs could direct towards their Regional Priorities.
As well as their primarily economic duties, RDAs were expected to contribute to policy on transport, planning and land use, further and higher education, crime prevention, housing, public health, tourism, culture and sport.
RDAs were governed by a board of 12 to 15 members: these were drawn principally from the business community, but also included figures from the voluntary sector, education and local government. Members were appointed by the Government, apart from in London, where they were appointed by the Mayor.
**Following the 2010 General Election, the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government announced its intention to replace RDAs with Local Enterprise Partnerships, described as "joint local authority-business bodies brought forward by local authorities themselves to promote local economic development". The creation of the LEPs was part of the government's commitment to build a new economic model. In the coalition's 'Programme for Government' published in May 2010, it was stated that the LEPs "may take the form of the existing RDAs in areas where they are popular".
In December 1997, Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott released the White Paper "Building Partnerships for Prosperity", setting out the Government's plans. These were put into law in the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998.
Eight of the nine RDAs were formally launched in April 1999, with the London Development Agency following in July 2000, along with the establishment of the Greater London Authority.
The White Paper was initially explicit in its casting of RDAs in the context of the devolution of political, as well as economic, responsibility to the regions. Indeed, the process took place at the same time as power was being devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh National Assembly.
At the time of the launch of the White Paper, Mr Prescott declared, "This Government is committed to move to directly-elected regional government in England, where there is demand for it." The first stage of this process was a declaration of support for the establishment of "regional chambers" (subsequently called "regional assemblies" in many areas), bringing together councillors from across the region and key business and civil society stakeholders.
However, following the 2000 Comprehensive Spending Review, the emphasis of RDAs' work was reaffirmed as economic development, and their funding was increased. This shift of emphasis was confirmed when the responsibility for RDAs was transferred from the dissolved DETR to the DTI after the 2001 general election.
While the primary responsibility for regional policy and regional governance rested with the DCLG, (which replaced the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2006) it shared a Public Service Agreement target on regional economic performance with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), which was responsible for the RDAs.
RDAs were controversial largely because opponents regarded them as unnecessary duplicators of existing functions and part of an agenda to "regionalise" the UK.