The South West Regional Development Agency has issued a strong defence of its record following criticism yesterday in Parliament from Business Secretary Vince Cable.
During a Parliamentary debate on support for business, Cable questioned whether the RDA offered value for money.
During his speech, he claimed that the RDAs “absorbed something like £10.6 billion in their lifetime”. And he said: “They did create some employment, that is for sure—at £60k per job. That was the cost—much more than twice the average wage, and at a time when there was a labour shortage in the economy and people were coming in from overseas.
“I do not deny that many of their activities were useful, but equally many were not. At Prime Minister’s Questions, the Prime Minister detailed some of the more absurd excesses, and I could have added a few more—the £50k party for the South West of England RDA in Center Parcs, champagne receptions in Cannes and many others.
“Some serious work was done, but it was very costly, raising very serious questions of cost-effectiveness. We now want to create a structure that reflects the real interest of enterprise and local councils.”
In response, SWRDA said in a statement today: “With all the discussion around the future of RDAs, it’s important that everyone is aware of the facts. The South West RDA is an effective and efficient organisation, and this has been independently verified by auditors such as PWC.
“Most recently we were scored ‘good’ across all of our business functions in a report by the National Audit Office. Since 1992 we have created or safeguarded 43,600 jobs, supported the creation of over 3,000 businesses and attracted £1.3bn of investment into the region. To do this we need highly-motivated, skilled people working for us.”
And referring to Cable’s Center Parcs jibe, SWRDA said: “We bring together our staff annually to discuss the work of the Agency in the coming year. As the largest English region, this is the most cost effective way to ensure that every employee is working for the organisation’s goals.
“Most highly successful businesses in the private sector have an annual staff conference. They do this to increase morale and ensure that the organisation is going in the right direction. We are no different. We always chose the most cost effective location and one which is accessible to staff in all our offices. The annual staff conference is crucial in helping us to achieve lasting economic success for the region. At the time Center Parcs provided the best value for money.”