Stewart Jackson on Life After EEDA

Stewart Jackson MP comments on the imminent demise of the East of England Development Agency and how we can expect their functions to be reallocated without detriment to the future of the region. Broadcast at 07:25 on Wednesday 30th June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Paul Stainton on BBC Radio Peterborough.

PAUL: The East of England Development Agency, by the way, just in case you’ve missed it, has been scrapped. It was set up to boost Cambridgeshire’s economy, and support local businesses. The Coalition announced yesterday it would be replaced with a Regional Growth Fund .. sounds ominous .. and by Local Enterprise Partnerships. Will Pope was Chair of EEDA. He was on our Drivetime Show last night. He’s proud of what EEDA have accomplished. (TAPE)
POPE: We’re really proud of the achievements of EEDA over the last ten years. You’ve only got to look at the forty thousand jobs we’ve actually secured, safeguarded, the hundred thousand people a year that we help, and businesses and people that we help with targeted business support and business advice. Two hundred thousand people in total provided with new and higher skills to further advance their businesses and their business aspirations. It’s a great achievement. (LIVE)
PAUL: Well Stewart Jackson is the Conservative MP for Peterborough. Morning Stewart.
STEWART: Good morning Paul.
PAUL: EEDA, how are we going to live without it?
STEWART: Well I don’t think EEDA and the demise of EEDA really is the talk of the Dog and Duck in Peterborough frankly. They did some good things around access to finance, helping businesses through Business Link, inward invetment, and as individuals they were very committed and diligent. But we can’t afford to have a regional set-up any longer. And we feel as a government that it’s better to be focusing much more locally on regeneration and investment, local businesses working together with local authorities to deliver key objectives.
PAUL: Did they help local businesses? That was the plan wasn’t it?
STEWART: Well I think the problem with EEDA is, and the problem with all the Regional Development Agencies, is that there’s no such thing generally speaking in this country as a regional economy. There were many many sub-regional economies. So for instance the economy that you might have in East Hertfordshire or Southend is completely different to Bedford or Peterborough, and therefore the priorities had to be spread very thinly. And I think the good thing about a Local Enterprise Partnership, I favour perhaps a Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, where perhaps we work with Fenland or East Northamptonshire or South Holland as a bigger entity, is that it will focus on specifically Greater Peterborough and the issues we have in growing jobs in this area.
PAUL: Haven’t we already got one of those, a Greater Peterborough Partnership?
STEWART: Well it hasn’t got the same sort of powers around things like local planning, housing, and infrastructure planning that the Local Enterprise Partnership would have.
PAUL: Now EEDA’s going to be replaced with a Regional Growth Fund, which sounds like you need to get some pills for it. What is that? The Chair of EEDA isn’t sure what it is, and what happens next. What is going to happen?
STEWART: Well it’s one billion pounds that the Government has put aside in the next two financial years principally to try and encourage all organisations, both public sector working with the private sector, and the private sector on their own, to actually grow more jobs, to start more businesses, principally I have to say in areas where there is a high level of public sector concentration.
PAUL: So not in Peterborough then?
STEWART: Well this is the issue. It doesn’t say that it’s specifically not across the country. And therefore I will be making very strong representations to Vince Cable and to Eric Pickles that those areas of the East where there are pockets of economic difficulties because of job losses, in places like Harwich, Stevenage, Peterborough and Luton, clearly those areas should take priority in the East, and Peterborough obviously in my opinion should take top priority.
PAUL: Because we’re already missing out, aren’t we, on the National Insurance tax break for small businesses, because we’re too prosperous? We could miss out on this perhaps?
STEWART: Well I think that was a bit of a blunt instrument, and I’ve made that clear, and I will continue to lobby that the Treasury need to look at that again. Because it does seem perverse that somewhere in wealthy Cheshire, because it happens to be in the North West region, can access that funding, or that tax break, and Peterborough, which is on the regional boundary between the East Midlands and the Eastern region, misses out, because it happens to be just inside the Eastern region. So I think the Chancellor is mindful of those perverse consequences, and I think we need to keep lobbying to make sure the Treasury understand that.
PAUL: Many local MPs from around the region think this is going to cost a lot of jobs. Do you agree?
STEWART: No. I think that if you put together the package in the Budget, if the economy does grow by what we think, which is about two and a half per cent, we have cuts in corporation tax, we have National Insurance changes across the country, we start paying off the deficit, we have a Green Investment Bank, plus this Regional Growth Fund, I do think you’re going to see the creation of a lot more private sector jobs across the country and also in Peterborough. If we get a Green Investment Bank and we get the Green New Deal, which was also in the Budget, which is about helping people to make their own homes more sustainable, then that’s going to be good for Peterborough, which is an Environment City with over three hundred businesses engaged in the environment sector. And that can only be good for our area.
PAUL: Stewart thank you for that. Stewart Jackson MP for Peterborough talking about the abolition of EEDA this morning.