East Midlands Development Agency must do more to help rural areas - first report by East Midlands MPs says

For immediate release: Wednesday 29 July 2009

New report: The East Midlands Development Agency and the Regional Economic Strategy

A report published by MPs on the East Midlands Committee today (Wednesday 29 July) praises the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) for responding rapidly to the economic downturn, but says the government agency must do better on sustainability and calls on it to do more to ensure funding reaches rural areas.

The report, which looks at the performance of emda and the regional economic strategy, applauds the agency for adapting quickly to the current economic climate by shifting its focus from promoting growth to ensuring businesses survive. However, the MPs raise concerns that rural parts of the region are sometimes falling through the gap when it comes to funding from the Government Agency, as it tends to focus on urban centres such as Leicester, Nottingham and Derby.

The report also highlights worries about the decreases expected in emda's budget over the coming years with the agency set to receive £20 million less cash over 3 years in the Single Programme Grant in Aid. The Committee warns that this will frustrate emda's strategic aims and cause difficulties to projects in the region.

The Committee also wants to see the East Midlands Development Agency:

€ put sustainability higher up on its agenda.

€ push for investment in broadband technology to improve coverage across the region.

€ do more to promote Business Link and the help available to businesses.

€ work more closely with regional partners such as trade unions, small businesses and the environmental sector

It recommends that the Regional Minister should:

€ take a lead role in appointing board members for emda.

€ examine the criteria for selecting its board and look at whether environmental expertise should be represented.

Chairman of the Committee Paddy Tipping MP said:

"Our Report congratulates emda on what it has achieved over the past 10 years. In many respects this is one of the leading Regional Development Agencies in the country.

"Nevertheless, the Committee felt there were areas where further work needed to be done; in particular emda must consult closely with all stakeholders including Trade Unions, Small Businesses and Environmental Organisations.

"There is a need for emda to work with others to create a strong environmental voice in the East Midlands.

"emda is a major player in the East Midlands which has achieved a lot and has a good understanding of what remains to be done. The Committee will return to some of the issues raised in the report at a later date."

The first Regional Economic Strategy in 1999 set a target for the East Midlands to be in the top-20 regions in the EU by 2010. The Committee congratulates EMDA on its work towards that goal and its continued ambition for the East Midlands to be a flourishing region, which has been recognised in independent reviews by the National Audit Office and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Evidence presented to the inquiry however revealed a perception that emda does not always consult sufficiently with key sectors within the region - such as unions, small businesses and environmental groups. The Committee recommends that emda strives to improve its relationships with these partners and continues to make use of the strong links it already has with many sectors.

The full report entitled The East Midlands Development Agency and the Regional Economic Strategy is available on request from Nick Davies 07917488141. It is the first report to be released by the East Midlands Select Committee which was created in March 2009. All of the Members of the Committee have constituencies in the region. Transcripts of the evidence given to the Committee can be downloaded on the Parliament website: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/emid.cfm