Reports from the house paper of the Conservative Party suggest that Vince Cable's rearguard action to defend some of the regional development agencies from the axe has come to naught, as Eric 'Who Ate All the Pies' Pickles is planning to announce their annihilation before the forces of Conservatism and power devolved to local authorities in the shape of Local Economic Partnerships.
A very interesting post from Dermot Finch points out that the only way that Eric can save £2.2 billion from the RDAs (actually £1.5bn since budgets were reduced by Labour and then again by the new administration) is by scrapping all the investment that they finance as well, since their administration and overhead costs amount to just 7% of budget, with the remainder going on programmes to support businesses, regeneration, training, etc.
Quite how the business community in the West Midlands will take the abolition of an agency that has specialised in business intervention, rather than the direct regeneration seen in other regions, and is calculated to bring in £4.50 for every £1 of investment, remains to be seen.
The Local Economic Partnerships look to be mini-disasters in the making, as the big players like Birmingham will be able to dominate them to the detriment of the more remote parts of the region - like Stoke, Telford or the rural backwaters. At best, there will be functional duplication, but at worst, stasis and decline - particularly if there is no funding at all attached to these new LEP beasts.
Finally, this looks to be part of a Tory campaign to wear down Vince Cable, as the RDAs actually fall under his department, not Pickles' Local Government. Poor old Vince - this can't be what he signed up for.