Tuesday 23 February 2010

Spinning off a cliff...

Lobbydog sniffed a rat when Lord Mandelson announced there would be £64million “new” funding for UK businesses today.

His news release suggested this was money handed down by the Government to be doled out by regional development agencies (RDAs).

But when questioned whether the money already existed in RDAs' budgets or if it really was new cash being handed down by the Government he gave a shifty reply.

“What we’ve got to do in this situation is make sure that every pound of public money is targeted where it is going to give the greatest return.

“If that means prioritising, if that means switching, if that means doing a little less here because you can get a bigger bang for your buck elsewhere that’s what were going to do.”

Translated the answer means ‘no, this is not new money’. In fact it is money that the RDAs already had in their budgets, but are only now allocating.

See how Mandy tries to make it sound like the Government is doing something courageous; typical Mandelson game-play.

In truth, money that would have been spent promoting business by RDAs anyway is now being spent on promoting business by RDAs.

There was tangible tension among some RDA people I spoke with who resented the fact that Mandelson was suddenly high-jacking one part of their programme and touting it as some kind of fiscal stimulus.

LD questioned the Biz Secretary further later in the day, asking why – given that RDAs are constantly handing grants out and that this money was not new cash – had he chosen to hold such a big event highlighting the work today.

“What? Today, as opposed to tomorrow,” he said.

“No. Today, a couple of months before a general election,” I suggested.

He replied that he had always highlighted the work of RDAs.

What really takes the biscuit – and I don’t just mean a rich-tea, I’m talking double chocolate hob-nob territory here – is that he also admitted the Government is actually cutting RDAs’ budgets.

Only the Dark Lord himself would try and spin this one into a good news story for Labour. This time he was caught with his trousers down.


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