A SENIOR peer has hit out at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills warning it is too London-centric and is ignoring the North East.
Lord Adonis, who chaired the North East Independent Economic Review, launched a broadside against the Whitehall department saying: “It is also far too centralised on London, and lacks outreach to – and sufficient knowledge of – the real economy, particularly outside the capital.”
Lord Adonis, a former Labour Transport Secretary, pointed out that the BIS once had officials based in regions working for the regional development agencies, which have since been abolished by the Government.
The peer obtained figures showing that One North East, the former development agency here, employed 419 people in 2010.
But the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills now has just 17 people at its office in Gateshead – its only office in the North East.
Meanwhile, there are 2,473 BIS staff based in London.
The small regional offices are expected to carry out key roles including briefing BIS ministers about the state of the economy in the region, supporting Local Enterprise Partnerships – the bodies created to replace Regional Development Agencies – and building relationships with key local employers.
Lord Adonis said: “The small BIS Local offices are not fit for purpose.”
And he added: “The proportion of BIS officials located outside of London should be restored from the current 6% to at least the 16% of 2010.
“This proportion should rise further as sector teams are strengthened. Teams focused on particular sectors might locate – with their directors – in regions where they are most prevalent.
“For example, the aerospace team might be located in Bristol and the automotive team in the North East or West Midlands.”
He made the comments in a report presented to Chukka Umunna, Labour’s Shadow Business Minister.
And the peer has now begun work on a new national study into the state of the economy for Labour leader Ed Miliband which will help determine the economic policies of a Labour government if the party wins power at the next election, due in 2015.
Over the next few months, he will be touring the country to hear the views of local businesses, colleges and communities taking into account the diverse challenges to innovation and growth faced by the different regions.
Mr Miliband said: “The last Labour government rebuilt our schools and rescued our NHS so that these key services worked better for the people of Britain.
“The next Labour government will need the same level of ambition in rebuilding our economy to secure a recovery made by many which is built to last. That is why I am delighted that Andrew Adonis has agreed to lead this independent review on growth.”
Lord Adonis said: “We need to promote more and better jobs by radically improving skills, the national infrastructure, levels of business innovation, and the strength of key industrial sectors. Government needs to be far more engaged and hands-on to make this happen.”
The review launch comes after ministers announced ï¿½48m had been awarded to support businesses in the North East in the latest round of funding from the Regional Growth Fund.