Regional Development Agencies: Having a ball at the 2008 Party Conferences

December 29, 2008 12:23 AM

Regional Development Agencies have been an expensive failure. Despite over £15 billion in taxpayer funding, they have proved ineffective in reducing regional income disparities, incapable of fostering sustainable economic growth and have frequently misused taxpayers’ money. Following the TaxPayers' Alliance's detailed analysis of RDA activity earlier this year (to read the report click here), the case for reforming RDAs has risen up the policy agenda. With their funding under threat, the RDAs took the opportunity of this autumn’s Party Conferences to try and mount a defence. But, true to form, that defence amounted to an appalling misallocation of taxpayers’ money. 

The TaxPayers' Alliance can today reveal that over the three main party conferences, RDAs spent over £285,000 purchasing security passes, obtaining hotel rooms, reimbursing staff for expenses and paying for expensive events in an attempt to attract political support.

To read the full report click here (PDF).

Key Findings
  • The nine RDAs spent £285,855 attending and participating in the 2008 Party Conferences.
  • The Labour Conference was the most expensive to RDAs, costing over £107,102.
  • RDA staff claimed £14,025 in expenses (taxis, meals, drinks at the bar, etc).
  • The North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) spent the most, at £89,885 in total. The South West RDA was the next biggest spender, at £53,149.
  • Hosting events for politicians and the media was the biggest cost for RDAs. The NWDA spent £67,671 on wine, food and venues at the Party Conferences. The remaining eight RDAs spent £108,458 between them on events.
  • Thousands were spent on hotel rooms and conference passes.

Ben Farrugia, Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers' Alliance said:

“This is a serious misuse of public money. RDAs were not created to buy wine and canapés for politicians, but rather to improve regional economies. They have failed to do this, and instead use taxpayers’ money to win over political support. Such behaviour only strengthens the case for their abolition.”  

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