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Regional Development Agencies Operational Closure

Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2012

The Public Bodies Act 2011, which received Royal Assent on 14 December 2011, contains a provision which, when commenced later this year, will abolish eight regional development agencies (RDAs). That provision will be brought into force by a commencement order. I can now confirm that the RDAs will achieve full operational closure on 31 March 2012.

Following the eight individual transfer schemes BIS made which came into effect on 1 January 2012 under the Public Bodies Act, transferring the majority of the RDAs’ remaining projects and contracts, a further eight schemes will come into effect on 30 March removing all remaining operational assets from the RDAs’ balance sheets. These schemes will be available with those which took effect on 1 January in the Libraries of both Houses.

In the period since RDA closure was announced in the Budget on 22 June 2010, those functions that the Government have decided should continue have been transferred to new delivery bodies. This included European regional development fund delivery reverting to DCLG, the rural development programme for England moving to DEFRA, the grants for research and development programme migrating to the technology strategy board and venture capital funds transferring to BIS to be managed by Capital for Enterprise. Residual activity for the grants for business investment scheme has also come to BIS. The majority of RDA land and property assets not already disposed of, valued at in the region of £300 million, transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency on 19 September 2011. As part of the functions transfers, over 500 staff have been transferred in accordance with the requirements of either the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations or the broadly equivalent terms of the Cabinet Office statement of principles on staff transfer, while the remaining 2,200 staff employed when abolition was announced in June 2010 have or will resign, be made redundant or retire.

Formal abolition is anticipated at the end of June 2012 but when this is finally confirmed I will make another statement. A third set of transfer schemes in the summer concurrent with abolition will remove from the RDAs any outstanding assets, liabilities and obligations that emerge during the final closure processes.

From April 2012 RDAs will concentrate solely on matters relating to financial closure, primarily accounts for the financial year 2011-12, which will be laid in both Houses in the summer of 2012 in the usual way, and clear line of sight consolidation of accounts with BIS for 2011-12. Accounts for the period from 1 April 2012 to the date of abolition will also be laid later in the year by my Department.

Since Budget 2010, when abolition was announced, the RDAs have worked diligently with my Department and other bodies to protect the taxpayers’ interest by securing value from their portfolios. I am grateful for the professional approach shown by both their boards and their staff in achieving an orderly closedown.