Turning off the regeneration funding tap

The Beeb has happily trumpeted that the South West Regional Development Agency is bringing forward £3M of ‘investment’ in the regeneration of Swindon town centre, whilst making cuts almost everywhere else. But that’s only part of the story. The details of the plans say rather more about how that money is being spent.

Swindon town centre, 2009/2010: Given the current recession and significant uncertainty in the property market, the Agency has agreed to bring forward £2.85m of investment in town centre regeneration projects into 2009/10. This investment, which has now been approved, will help to improve the town centre including helping to tackle empty units, creating construction jobs now and helping to create the conditions for private sector investment when market confidence returns

‘Tackling empty buildings’ sounds like more demolition to me, with only a little bit of building going on. The briefing and project list also make clear that this is the last money Swindon will be receiving from the agency for the foreseeable future.

In five particular areas where we are currently involved in a large number of projects — Plymouth, West of England, Swindon, Gloucester and our support for the aerospace industry — we have decided that we need to place an upper limit on what will still be significant future support for projects in these areas….
Swindon town centre, 2010/2011: Given the shortage of funds available to the Agency in 2010/11 other partners will fund activity in this year. This collaborative approach will allow the RDA and its partners collectively to keep regeneration and development moving forward

That to me sounds like Swindon’s tax payers picking up the tab for the New Swindon Company’s ineffectiveness. Nice. A ‘collaborative approach’ where Swindon gets told what to build by a quango it didn’t ask for, but after this year doesn’t get any extra money to pay for it. That doesn’t look like much of a collaboration to me.