Those of you who took The Sunday Times this weekend may have noticed that Advantage West Midlands - impervious to the credit crunch - were advertising for yet another highly paid and completely unaccountable executive to join their ranks of 300+, and to help dole out the £350million taxpayer-funded budget they preside over.
The role, which will pay up to £80k per year plus pension and perks, is for a ‘Director of Innovation’ who will ‘develop innovation policy’ for this organisation who claim in their advert to be ‘the regional leader for economic prosperity’, and ‘helping to transform the region's economy by connecting need and opportunity to create a better place in which to invest, work, learn, visit and live’.
Yet our August Structure of Government paper on RDAs proved that this really isn’t the case, with these agencies failing to meet their mandate despite the huge amount of public money passed over to them. Success is quantifiable, and just looking at the figures it’s hard to see how AWM can brazenly take the credit for what they seem to regard as a record of successes.
Our report explained how in the West Midlands region the number of jobs and the number of people in work actually slowed after 1999, what’s more the area grew quicker in the seven years before Advantage West Midlands came into being (in both per head and total output terms), the West Midlands’ relative contribution to the economy has also dropped, and employment in the public sector rose quicker than in the private sector despite their boasts of job creation.
Dee Katwa, a journalist at the national newspaper Asian Voice, gives an explicit example of AWM’s failure in the latest issue, publishing the response he received from a Freedom of Information request sent in January 2006 about the success of the £30million SRB6 (Single Regeneration Budget):
Latest figures, then, revealed that the seven-year scheme had created just 395 jobs instead of the predicted 800, safeguarded only 486 jobs rather than the expected 1,536, and trained a mere 1,892 people of an a n t i c i p a t e d 4,218 students. The scheme was supposed to raise £60 million in private funds to keep all the projects up and running once the public money had run out. But, again figures showed that only a paltry £3,000 had been raised”.
And let’s not forget the waste of course, including the £118,00 the WMTPA found they had spent on last years conference (this year’s conference is just next week and it’ll be interesting to see if they’ve tightened their belts…) and the £3.6million they spent on the failed ‘BizTV’ website, to name just a couple.
AWM Chairman Nick Paul may well have been called to answer to Peter Luff MP and Julie Kirkbride MP at the recent House of Commons inquiry, but with increasing powers we certainly haven’t seen the back of this expensive and questionable quango, and until our RDAs are completely dissolved we can count on seeing more bureaucratic posts advertised, complete with fat-salaries.