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Talking the talk, but will Labour walk the walk? Don't hold your breath

March 15, 2015 8:08 PM
By David Faulkner

Cllr David Faulkner writes to the Journal : Councillor Jeremy Beecham berates the Lib Dems for being party to the abolition of the regional development agencies (letter, March 14th) and reminds us that in 2012 Vince Cable subsequently praised the work of One North East. That's the nature of coalition, Jeremy - you don't get everything you want - as your party may or may not discover in the coming months. And good for Vince Cable for telling it as he saw it - he's an honest politician who speaks frankly.

As Councillor Beecham well knows, the truth is that most RDAs around the country were a dismal failure. One North East wasted its first few years by trying to keep all parts of the region happy before it belatedly began to focus on developing the most promising sectors. Opinion is divided on whether it delivered best value but it certainly spent a lot of money - even though the Labour Government started cutting its funds before it left office (remember that, Jeremy?). It paid its people very well, and operated without any democratic mandate to speak of.
As the economic development agency for an elected regional assembly with meaningful devolved functions and budgets, the North East and the RDA might have given the Scots a run for their money - especially if Labour had rid us of the Barnett formula when it was no longer justified.
If John Prescott had offered the region an assembly with teeth or if North East Labour had put its wholehearted support behind what was on offer, then maybe things would have been different. However as Professor Fred Robinson's report concluded, Labour let the region down, not for the first time.
Well that's all history, but do tell, Jeremy, will the restoration of the RDAs (or at least ours) be in Labour's forthcoming manifesto? If not, then the credibility of these protestations are rather undermined, aren't they? And on another of Councillor Beecham's causes, will we see the Labour manifesto commit to a local government funding system that claws back for councils in poorer areas some of the funding lost under Mr Pickles' formula? Don't hold your breath for that either.
Councillor David Faulkner
Newcastle City Council Liberal Democrats