Funding fear for city after EEDA scrapped
THE scrapping of a Government agency which has pumped £41.6 million into Peterborough has left future funding for city growth in doubt.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced at a Government cabinet meeting in Bradford yesterday that regional development agencies (RDAs) – including East of England Development Agency (EEDA) – will be replaced by new bodies called Local Enterprise Partnerships.
They will invest in transport, housing and regeneration on a local rather than a regional scale.
The announcement followed the revelation in last week’s emergency budget that RDAs would be scrapped.
Yesterday, Mr Clegg revealed that £1 billion of regional development funding will be available from 2011 to 2013 – but exactly how that will be divided up between the LEPs is not yet known.
EEDA, which employs 245 people in Cambridge, has invested millions of pounds into Peterborough since its inception in 1999 and civic leaders now fear its closure will mean less investment for the city.
With EEDA recently having £23.3million cut from its budget, Peterborough City Council leader Marco Cereste believes there will be less money around for LEPs when they come into force.
He said: “There is no question that the changes at EEDA will have a knock on effect for economic de- velopment in Peterborough, but we will be doing what needs to be done to protect the city’s interests.”
The future of EEDA will be outlined in a government White Paper, which is expected to pass into law this summer.
In the meantime, EEDA has pledged to continue supporting business growth. Chairman William Pope said: “In the transition, our responsibility is to support the continued investment in economic development across the East of England.”
City regeneration body Opportunity Peterborough - which is tasked with attracting investment and developing the city’s economy – is now in preparing a case for Peterborough to be at the forefront of running a new LEP.
To ensure it has a strong case, OP is consulting district councils in South Holland, South Kesteven and Rutland about a possible joint venture. It will submit its plan to the Government in September.
It also wants Huntingdonshire District Council, Fenland District Council and East Northamptonshire Council on board with the project.
OP’s director of economic development Neil Darwin said: “We don’t want to see Peterborough playing second fiddle to Cambridge, so we are speaking to areas which already contribute to and benefit from the Peterborough economy.”
City MP Stewart Jackson said Government funding for growth should be invested by people who know where it needs spending.
He said: “Local regeneration projects should be driven by local elected officials working together with businesses.”
North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara agreed.
He said LEPs will be a better alternative to regional agencies.
He added: “The RDAs have always been surplus to requirements, doing work which could be properly dealt with by other agencies.
“It costs a huge amount of money which we will now be able to save in these tough economic times.
“The RDAs should have been scrapped a long time ago, but it is better late than never.”
INVESTMENT: EEDA put cash into the Cathedral Square revamp (above).