The North West Development Agency, once that most powerful and wealthy of regeneration quangos under the last Labour government, ceases operating on Friday. Place spoke to chief executive Mark Hughes.
At its height the NWDA employed 500 people – this week there were 60 remaining in the headquarters at Renaissance House in Warrington.
Mark Hughes, chief executive, said: "Unfortunately we have got used to the rhythm of people leaving and this is the fourth wave of departures since the abolition of the RDAs was announced in 2010."
See below for links to legacy documents
Of the 60 most will be made redundant at the end of today but 14 are staying on until the end of June to help close down – as Hughes put it – the financial and legal entity rather than the operational agency. This includes compiling and publishing the final annual report and financial statements.
Hughes added: "Everything that had to be transferred has been transferred and everything that had to be closed has been closed down."
Assets valued at £500m have been transferred to other government agencies and departments, mainly to the Homes & Communities Agency, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Communities & Local Government. More than 1,000 programmes and contracts for business support and economic development initiatives have been terminated. Around 15 operational offices in the North West, London and overseas – Boston, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago – have been closed and leases exited. There are now four leases remaining that will pass to DCLG today; Renaissance House and Lakeside House in Warrington, Muirfield House in Birchwood and Gillan Way, Penrith.
As well as handing over property liabilities and assets, the vast online library of NWDA documents on the agency website and those of partner organisations has been handed over to the National Archives for continued publication in perpetuity. Further truckloads of paper documents have been taken to Whitehall for storage.
Hughes has not decided what the futures holds for him, apart from a "well-earned break", which seemed a common sentiment among the last remaining people in the NWDA office this week that Place spoke to. Dave Perkins, programme director responsible for land and property latterly, and secretaries fielding calls all said they had nothing lined up other than a break and looking forward to spending time with their kids.
Hughes said around 90% of those who had left in the past two years had successfully found the next move they were looking for, be it employment, setting up their own businesses, returning to education or transferring to another government department. A quick search on LinkedIn shows some of the places where those people have popped up. There are 855 people listed with NWDA experience or accolades in their CV. Whilst the debate about the value of RDAs and whether they fulfilled their potential will go on for years, it seems fair to say the NWDA alumni are highly employable. Their experience, knowledge, skills and contacts from time spent at the historic centre of regeneration government still counts for something.
Hughes reflects: "We'd rather not have been in this position but the fact is this is where we found ourselves and I think the closure has been handled with phenomenal professionalism by the agency's staff."
There will continue to be monthly board meetings until June, monitored by BIS and DCLG as the final handover takes effect.
Useful NWDA legacy reports and links
Published March 2012: Legacy Part 2: Business, People and Places – The Record of NWDA Activity and Assets