Skip to main content

Progress report on the Regional Growth Fund

The National Audit Office has concluded that the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills have improved the governance of the Regional Growth Fund and taken on more staff with the levels of skill needed. The two departments have also sped up the process of making final offers to bidders and made progress in commissioning a formal evaluation of the Fund’s impact.

Despite this, the departments face a significant challenge, particularly in 2014-15 where the budget is £1.4 billion, to spend money as quickly as originally expected. There is still a significant amount of public money to allocate through the Fund. The NAO review indicates that value for money depends on the departments’ further tightening controls on the jobs and other benefits that bids offer, relative to their cost.

The Government established the Fund in June 2010 to encourage private sector enterprise by providing support for projects with significant potential for economic growth; and to support public sector dependent areas and communities to make the transition to sustainable growth and prosperity led by the private sector.

Today’s report finds that, following concern by the Public Accounts Committee that the cost benefit threshold for projects has been set at too low a level, the departments have introduced a revised expectation that the ratio of benefits to costs should be at least 2:1 before final offer letters are signed.

The average cost of each net additional job at the point of selection increased substantially in the third and fourth bidding rounds, bringing the average cost from £33,000 in rounds one and two to £37,400 now (an increase of 13 per cent).

Some £492 million has now reached projects but most of the Fund remains unspent. £917 million of the £2.6 billion funding allocated in the first four bidding rounds had been paid by the end of December 2013 but, of this amount, £425 million is being held by intermediaries.

The number of jobs created or safeguarded has increased by 22,100 since September 2012, bringing the total to 44,400. However, just under half of the jobs to date were created or safeguarded by only five schemes and the other half were delivered by the remaining 291 operational schemes in rounds one to three.

25 February 2014

Notes for Editors

  1. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  2. The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 860 staff. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of almost £1.2 billion in 2012.

PN: 13/14