England’s regional development agencies have failed to close the north-south divide and should either be closed down or merged and given new objectives, a report by a think-tank has recommended.

The Centre for Cities said the greater south-east economy grew 17.6% during the first seven years of the RDAs’ existence, while the rest of England grew by 15.1%.

Although the report accepted that reform was unlikely during the deepening economic crisis, it said the agencies should be shaken up after the next election to focus on boosting regional growth rates and promoting job creation.

The three northern RDAs should be merged into a single Northern Development Agency, providing better links between the two biggest city-regions around Manchester and Leeds.

Meanwhile, the south-eastern, eastern and London development agencies should either be streamlined or abolished, since the economy in those three RDAs generated £22,657 per head in 2006, over £6,000 more than the rest of England.

Financial Times