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The good and the bad news on fresh public investment in Yorkshire

Len Tingle | 08:17 UK time, Wednesday, 13 April 2011

This week the Coalition Government allocated around £40 million pounds of taxpayer's cash to projects aimed at boosting the economy of Yorkshire.
According to Business Secretary Vince Cable's Business Department it should create or preserve at least 7,000 jobs.
It is a welcome shot-in-the arm after weeks of relentless announcements of tens of thousands of job losses from the workforces of local councils, hospitals and even our police forces.
Behind the headlines this announcement actually confirms that central government economic investment in Yorkshire is now being cut by around two thirds.
Under the Labour Government a much bigger grant of around a quarter of a billion pounds was being sent for investment here every year.
The responsibility for where it should be spent was delegated to the Regional Development Agency Yorkshire Forward.
One of the first acts of the incoming Chancellor George Osborne was to consign Yorkshire Forward to a big dustbin marked "QUANGOs" as a cost-cutting measure.
The Agency is being wound down with the last of its 450 staff ordered to switch off the lights and lock the doors of its Leeds headquarters behind them by next spring.
The replacement for Yorkshire Forward, and the eight other RDAs around the country, is the Coalition Government's Regional Growth Fund.
The announcement this week is the allocation of the first pot of money from the fund.
There are two fundamental changes with this way of targeting public money to oil the wheels of investment.
Firstly, the £1.4 billion pounds being made available to the Regional Growth Fund is its entire budget for the next three years. Between them the English Regional Development Agencies spent roughly the same amount every year.
Secondly, each region is not guaranteed a fixed share of the money. Every individual project has to bid for funding alongside similar projects from around the country.
So it is great news for winning projects like the £18m earmarked for a new link road from the M18 to South Yorkshire's Robin Hood Airport and the extra investment aimed at improving the growth and employment prospects of key companies in West Yorkshire like sweet manufacturer Haribo at Normanton near Wakefield and David Brown Gears at Huddersfield. Eight hundred extra houses can now be built in the City of Wakefield and work can now go ahead to improve the infrastructure to attract more businesses to Doncaster.
Yet, there is bitter disappointment too.
There are many more projects convinced they would have been backed by funding from Yorkshire Forward but are now classed as unaffordable as the UK struggles to repay its debts.
It is not the end of the story. There is still another two years to go for the Regional Growth Fund. Projects have to submit their bids to the Business Department by July 1st for the next year's allocations.


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