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NWDA tells two different stories

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August 16 2005

The Northwest Development Agency’s own figures told a different story, but data collated by the Department of Trade and Industry for the Northwest Development Agency’s financial year 2004/05 were seized upon and announced with some glee by Industry and the Regions Minister, Alun Michael. Last year the NWDA created 11,208 new jobs in the region and created or attracted in 1,094 new businesses, prompting Michael to declare that: “Yet again, the Northwest Regional Development Agency has shown what a valuable role it plays in improving the economic performance of the region.”
However, in the introduction to the draft of the third Regional Economic Strategy to be conducted by the NWDA a less upbeat story emerged. Announcing that the economic blueprint was up for its three-yearly renewal, NWDA officials admitted that although a net additional 150,000 new jobs had been created during the six-year history of the agency, “many of these have been low paid, often part-time jobs.” The document goes on to list the difficulties that the NWDA still face. “The Gross Value Added output per head of the Northwest is still 12% lower than in the rest of England – resulting in an output gap of £13billion,” it read. Other key ‘gaps’ with the England average (based on the size of the population) include 80,000 fewer people working and 38,000 fewer companies.
Regional business representatives struck a more balanced note. “In terms of Merseyside they’ve definitely learned to be more careful. They’ve signed things off in the past that were never going to happen, such as The Cloud and the Everton stadium. Lessons have been learned I think,” said Frank McKenna, chairman at Downtown Liverpool in Business. With Objective 1 funding ending in 2007, McKenna believes that the NWDA will become even more influential in Merseyside, “which is no bad thing”. “I think they are looked at as being the most business friendly of all the agencies working in the area,” he said.

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