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Local offices return months after axing; Government needs regional hubs after all.

Byline: William Green

NEW regional Government offices are being created - months after the coalition decided to axe existing centres.

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has decided offices are needed outside London to co-ordinate his Whitehall department's work with local economic organisations.

That comes after Tory Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles last year decided to axe the existing network of regional Government offices.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) confirmed its plans in a written answer to Parliament - but insisted they would only receive a budget to cover administration costs and refused to reveal their locations.

North East Lib Dem peer John Shipley welcomed the news, saying: "The abolition of Government offices was a serious mistake. Whitehall will learn the hard way that they need representation across England."

He added: "It is essential the voice of the North East is properly heard in Whitehall and that Whitehall has a full presence in the English regions."

But Labour's former North East Minister Nick Brown said: "This latest news is chaotic. The Government is closing down the regional development agencies and the Government regional offices."

The Newcastle East MP warned the new offices would not have a budget to support economic development and questioned why the BIS was unable to say where they would be located.

He was backed by shadow business minister and Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah.

She said: "It looks like BIS are waking up to the fact that it is impossible to regional growth and investment entirely from Whitehall.

"But instead of a Government office and a properly funded regional development agency, we will have a BIS office and an unfunded local enterprise partnership.

The North is still being short-changed."

In written answers to Parliament, Tory Business Minister Mark Prisk said: "It is important that BIS has a policy presence outside of Whitehall so that the department can communicate effectively with local enterprise partnerships, businesses and other organisations. "The network is still in the early stages of development, but it is expected there will be six small teams in different parts of the country. Locations have not yet been confirmed."

He added: "The teams will support BIS's overall objectives, particularly those relating to growth, jobs and re-balancing the economy."

The minister insisted the plans had been drawn up as part of the Government's closure of regional Government offices and development agencies. "The need for a BIS presence outside Whitehall has been discussed with business organisations and local enterprise partnerships.

"The department will continue to work closely with stakeholders as the BIS teams are set up," he added.


DECISION Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2011
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