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WMN opinion: Failure to deliver on these schemes is just baffling

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 11, 2012

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Government has an image problem.

Not specifically our current Government (though many may argue it has been struggling to get its messages across) but Government in general.

Local government, central government, and all the quangos and schemes and programmes associated with them have a huge problem with their image.

It may be because of unclear messages. It may be because of poor communication, and it may be because of the army of press officers, and offices, and communication managers, and agencies.

But whatever the cause, for the average man or woman on the street Government is becoming more of a mystery to them nearly every day.

It's hard to believe that until recently we had a farming minister prepared to admit he didn't know the price of a pint of milk as he tried to broker a peace deal between disgruntled dairy farmers and large supermarkets.

And it's hard to forget some of the staggering claims that were exposed during the MPs' expenses scandal.

But these are the mysteries of government that most of us can at least understand.

The real problem for government these days is complexity – and particularly the complexity of public- funded schemes that are designed to make a real difference.

How many of us, outside those that administer and run the schemes, really understand the critical importance of first, Objective One, and now convergence funding to Cornwall?

And how many business people in the country really understood the opportunity provided by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF)?

The Western Morning News and Plymouth University last year joined together for their ground-breaking partnership to award and distribute £1 million of RGF money to help create employment in the region. At the last count there was direct evidence of 90 new jobs created.

But today's front page report shows that the scheme's success was a drop in the ocean, and that much of the £1.4 billion RGF fund is plagued by delays.

The Committee of Public Accounts has criticised the RGF for failing to get money to companies on the ground two years after it opened for business. Just £60 million – or 4% of the entire fund – has reached projects on the front-line.

And this is why government has an image problem. The launch of the RGF was much trumpeted, and the job creation targets ambitious.

But, with the odd exception, delivery has been poor. Local Enterprise Partnerships and the Regional Growth Fund have replaced the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), but LEPs have no money for staff or delivery.

To most people on the ground, those doing business or struggling to make a living, situations like that account to more than an image problem. It is completely baffling – and totally unacceptable.

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