Axed Advantage West Midlands investing £90m

Mick Laverty and Peter Flinn
Image caption Mick Laverty (centre) and a colleague (right) consult the site manager at Ansty Park

Advantage West Midlands (AWM), whose closure was announced a year ago, is still employing more than 200 staff and has a budget of £140m in 2011-12.

It is one of nine regional development agencies (RDAs) set up in 1999 to help local economies.

The coalition government said last June they were to be scrapped.

A spokesman for AWM said it had a £90m programme of investments to deliver through 160 on-going projects before it officially closed in March 2012.

At its peak, it employed 332 people and its 2009-10 budget was £345m.

'Transfer sites'

The government has said that replacing the RDAs was aimed at "improved co-ordination" of investment in the economy.

They are to be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), made up of councils and businesses.

Projects the agency said it was still involved in include the multi-million pound renovation of Birmingham New Street station in which AWM has invested £100m, with £20m in 2011-12,

It has invested £2.3m in the Olympic Support Programme and £3.5m in the Rural Enterprise Centre Network with £100,000 being invested 2011-12.

It will also transfer "major, long-term development sites" that it has recommended remain in public sector ownership to its successors.

These sites include Ansty Park - a former Rolls-Royce site covering 40 hectares (99 acres) in Coventry - and 90 hectares (222 acres) in Wolverhampton and south Staffordshire where Moog Aerospace is building new premises.

'Large and complex'

AWM's chief executive Mick Laverty told BBC News the agency would be missed and had provided a good return for taxpayers - £8 for every £1 of taxpayers' money invested.

He said it was not being closed for poor performance.

"The current government has decided to tackle economic development in a slightly different way and that's entirely up to them," he said.

Some local businesses have complained there was too much bureaucracy needed to get help from the agency.

The Taxpayers' Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, has described them as an "unnecessary and expensive layer of bureaucracy that stifle genuine private enterprise".

Mr Laverty admitted AWM was "large and complex" but said the "economics of the West Midlands was large and complex".

The agency said it was not yet able to estimate the number and cost of redundancies.

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