Mastermind the gap

They've started, so they'll finish. The grant funding handed out during the recession by the powerful regen quangos the Homes & Communities Agency and North West Development Agency have been welcome but hardly surprising in where they've fallen.

Housing market renewal schemes in Tranmere and Salford this week follow NWDA nods for Daresbury science park, the Garden Festival site in Liverpool, and the buy-in of a former chemical site in Widnes Waterfront. All are priorities in the public sector's business plans. It would be illogical, they say, to leave with the job half done even if that means pumping in more cash injections than originally envisaged. Fair enough, if you're the lucky developer that snags the site. Not so if you're a retail developer in a secondary Cheshire town with a gap in your cost appraisal as values and development funding costs part like magnetic opposites. Not if you were caught out by the recession, basically.

It would be interesting to see the quango financiers rush in to Middle England with the same enthusiasm they throw more of the same at deprived urban areas. The gap is just as real, the consumer need for better amenities equally unsatisfied. Agencies cannot be ubiquitous and are left to make subjective judgment calls. Are Crewe and Macclesfield any less deserving than Tranmere or Salford?

  • Set aside thoughts of whether the FTSE 100 can break through 6000 points, the real poser is whether the NWDA staff numbers can reach 500. There were 474 people employed at the Warrington-based agency last time I asked. As Steve Broomhead, chief executive, salary approaching £200,000, takes to the stage at the annual conference today to justify his job to any Conservative bigwigs watching, another spattering of vacancies is advertised on the agency's website. Just the five new jobs being created as I write, down from the high of 30 spotted in one week in July . For fellow train-spotters there's the added joy of keeping track of how many staff have salaries above £50,000, how many above £100,000 and how many have brackets in their job title (a lot).

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