Given that regions have been abolished by the Coalition Government, the North West appears to be taking up an awful lot of my time. This morning is my by now regular trip to St Helens for a meeting of the Regional Leaders Board.
There is some meaty stuff on the agenda much of it concerned with the transition from the RDA world to the LEP world. First up is Atlantic Gateway where we agree a framework that includes a number of very significant economic projects dotted along the Manchester-Liverpool axis and the establishment of a steering group to be overseen by the RLB. There is a bit of controversy here as some reps from Cumbria and Lancashire are concerned that they are being squeezed out but we agree a way forward based on region-wide discussions on key themes, for example ports. Then we go European. European cohesion funding is worth £1.2billion pounds to the North West in the current programme which runs to 2013 and we want to make sure that we spend all that money and spend it well rather than lose it back to the Commission. The funds are administered by the RDA and we want to put in place new arrangements that maintain significant local influence over the programme, the alternative being centralisation to Whitehall. Last but not least we look at Civil Contingencies - how we cope with disasters like for example last year's floods in Cumbria. Earlier in the meeting we decide whether or not we will continue with the RLB after March next year. Not surprisingly with this sort of agenda the answer is we will but it will be a very lean organisation. Next year's subscription for each local authority is zero!