England

West Midlands development agency to be replaced

Advantage West Midlands (AWM) is one of nine regional development agencies (RDAs) across England to be scrapped, the government has confirmed.

The organisations will be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

AWM was set up in 1999 and employs more than 300 people in Birmingham with a budget of of £200m for 2010/11.

While it hopes to continue with current projects, some may be scaled back or cancelled to meet current budget reductions, a spokesman said.

The agencies have been criticised in the past, with the Taxpayers' Alliance, a group that campaigns for lower taxes, describing them as an "unnecessary and expensive layer of bureaucracy that stifle genuine private enterprise".

A government white paper will be published this summer regarding the development of LEPs.

It is not known what potential savings will be made from the changes.

'Stronger economy'

The date for the abolishment of the agencies has not been confirmed but could happen in 2012, an AWM spokesman said.

In a statement, the agency said the creation of LEPs formed part of the coalition Government's manifesto.

It added: "While the LEPs are being discussed and developed we will continue to work towards creating a stronger, more sustainable and balanced West Midlands economy.

"Our focus now must be on playing our part in helping to reduce the burden on public finances; delivering the efficiency and project savings asked for by government."

RDAs have been asked to make cuts of almost £300m in 2010/11 which will impact on current projects, AWM said.

"This will not be easy as we are already into the current financial year and it will mean that every RDA, including Advantage West Midlands, may need to consider delaying, scaling back or cancelling some of the programmes to which we are already committed or were planning," they said.

"The exact figure relating to Advantage West Midlands has not yet been confirmed and it is therefore too early to say which programmes in the region will be affected."

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