Coventry and Warwickshire City Deal

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 14th February 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 5:13 pm, 14th February 2013

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The problem was that the regional development agencies were branch offices of Whitehall in the country, which seems to be the opposite of the approach we need to liberate the entrepreneurialism and local strengths of particular areas. The areas should be coming to Whitehall, as they are—as the Coventry and Warwickshire local enterprise partnership has—and saying what they want to do. The problem with the RDAs was that it was the other way around.

The RDAs described a geography created by administrators rather than something that reflected the genuine historic and economic geography that prevails.

The west midlands is one example, but the north-west is another. The identities of world-renowned cities such as Manchester and Liverpool were subsumed and became totally anonymous in the Northwest Regional Development Agency, so it is absolutely necessary to make these changes. My hon. Friend is right to point out that even in their own terms the regional development agencies were a failure because the differences between London and the south-east and the regions widened during all that time. So it was right for city deals to be a priority.

One of the contrasts between our country and other countries on the continent of Europe, for example, is that in Germany almost every German city outside the capital of Berlin has a higher income per head than the national average, whereas in this country only one of the bigger cities outside London, Bristol, is above the national average. All the others are below. On the continent, not just in Germany but in France, Italy and other countries, the powerhouses of the regional economy drive the national economy, whereas regrettably over the past 20 years ours have been lagging behind that.