A BUSINESS group in Huddersfield has pledged to fight “tooth and nail” to secure funding to boost the regional economy.
The Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce spoke out after the announcement that Yorkshire Forward, and England’s eight other regional development agencies, are to be abolished.
The RDAs were set up in 1999 to co-ordinate public and private sector investment in transport, housing, skills and regeneration in the English regions.
The RDAs will now be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships – with locally-elected council leaders working with businesses to lead local economic development.
Yorkshire Forward, which has 450 employees and an annual budget of £277m, is awaiting a White Paper later this summer which will set out detailed proposals to replace the RDA network.
Yorkshire Forward chairman Terry Hodgkinson said: “It is clear that Yorkshire Forward will not continue in its current form. We accept change is coming and we are ready for it.
“However, this is as much about the functions performed in the region as their form.
“We have a talented and highly effective workforce within the organisation and in the wider region – making a real difference on the ground and working in partnership for the economic development of Yorkshire and Humber.
“The future of any local economic partnership arrangements are in the hands of our locally-elected councillors and business leaders and we are confident that they will advocate a way forward that is right for the people and businesses of Yorkshire and Humber.”
Steven Leigh, head of policy and representation at the Mid Yorkshire chamber, said: “There are some very good people working for Yorkshire Forward. If they can form the nucleus of the new LEPs delivering funding to the region at less cost, all well and good.”
But he added: “We want to be very much part of the discussions about how the LEPs are formed and how they will operate.
“It is obvious there needs to be some mechanism between central government in Westminster and money being released for economic projects in our region.
“We will fight tooth and nail to secure funding for the benefit of our region for things like transport improvement projects – where people in Yorkshire have not been banging the drum hard enough.”
Labour MP Rosie Winterton, who was minister for Yorkshire under the last government, said Yorkshire Forward had been invaluable to the region.
She said: “For every pound of public money that the RDA spent, they created something like £4.50 in return to the local economy, so it is wise investment.
“But you also need, when you are planning for growth in the future, to be able to have a regional vision of what is needed.”