The battle over the future of England’s nine regional development agencies intensified yesterday when Lord Mandelson urged them to sharpen their focus on helping businesses through the recession and preparing for recovery.

The business secretary published a report by PwC, the professional services company, suggesting that the state-funded bodies – which receive £2bn a year – generated £4.50 for regional economies for every £1 invested.

Lord Mandelson cited the report as evidence that the agencies, created by Labour in 1999, were working. However, he added: ;I think the RDAs can do even more. They must relentlessly focus on economic recovery and growth and are ideally placed to help lay down the commercial infrastructure of the 21st century.;

Ministers seized on the findings to attack the Tories over their proposals to allow local authorities to scrap RDAs – an issue the government believes will help Labour to win the business vote.

Financial Times, Daily Telegraph