More than 100 West Midlands regeneration projects axed
Jul 3 2009 By Jonathan Walker
More than 100 regeneration schemes have been axed across the West Midlands, after the region’s economic development agency was forced to cut budgets by £70 million.
Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the regional development agency, announced that funding for 122 proposed schemes had been cancelled.
It follows the Government’s announcement that Treasury funding for AWM will be cut by £48 million.
At the same time, the money AWM raises itself through land and property receipts has fallen by £21 million, as a result of the recession.
It meant the agency was forced to make total budget cuts of almost £70 million.
But it has also had to obey orders from Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, to focus its resources on supporting West Midlands businesses as they struggle to cope with the downturn.
This meant taking money out of regeneration schemes and spending it instead on projects to support industry.
Only 20 of the poorest parts of the West Midlands, which have been designated “impact investment locations” by AWM and other local quangos, are likely to receive investment. Schemes in other areas will be cut.
A high profile casualty of the cutbacks has been the proposed Friarsgate Gate Centre in Lichfield City centre.
Local MP Michael Fabricant (Con Lichfield) revealed earlier this week that AWM had told him it was withdrawing funding for the scheme,
Now, the agency has admitted that funding has been cancelled for a total of 122 projects which were in the pipeline.
However, it refused to reveal which schemes had been axed. A spokesman said: “At the moment, partners will be looking for alternative sources of funding and they will not be helped by publicity.”
The agency said £1.1 billion worth of funding, for both regeneration and business support, will go ahead.
It has reviewed 906 projects, including 600 which it was already contracted to carry out and had to continue, and a further 184 projects in the pipeline have been given the green light.
Mick Laverty, chief executive at Advantage West Midlands, said: “Undoubtedly the review has been challenging for us in terms of making choices and communicating difficult messages to partners.
“The projects affected were still in the approval process – in terms of our day-to-day activity, it’s business as usual. Not one legally contracted Agency project has been affected by this review.
“In total, some 784 projects are being progressed – and these will continue to support businesses, help people improve their skills and transform places through physical regeneration and infrastructure improvements.
“Where possible we will work with partners to explore whether there are alternative ways of delivering projects that have been adversely affected.
“We remain absolutely committed to working with partners to deliver the best possible outcome for the West Midlands region – and our revised Corporate Plan reflects responsible financial management of taxpayers’ money during difficult economic times for everyone.”
AWM confirmed that regeneration projects that will continue to receive funding include the Birmingham Gateway scheme to transform New Street rail station, the Birmingham International Airport runway extension, redevelopment of the former MG Rover car plant site at Longbridge and development of the city’s Eastside area.