I would like to raise two points which have arisen from my recent dealings with SWRDA and Business Link over the SW Business Recovery Fund.
Firstly, with regard to the SWRDA. I object to the growing power of this unelected body, the members of which are appointed by the Secretary of State. Struck by the SWRDA's careless treatment of small farm based businesses like ours, I have looked at the composition of their board. None represent or have direct experience of farming and particularly the sort of small family farm that characterises the South West. The only contact with any sort of agriculture on the board is through a former pub retailer who now chairs a large Milk selling organisation, and a member of a Labour Party affiliated 'think tank' on 'Agricultural Reform'...
I notice with some irony that the Chairman is formerly a member of the examining business which has attracted such fierce adverse criticism recently; and that another member was appointed Chairman of Wessex Water when Enron took it over!
I see from the Act under which the RDAs were formed that
"(2) In appointing a person to be a member of a regional development agency the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of appointing a person who has experience of, and has shown capacity in, some matter relevant to the functions of the agency.
"4. - (1) A regional development agency shall have the following purposes-
(a) to further the economic development and the regeneration of its area,
(b) to promote business efficiency, investment and competitiveness in its area,
(c) to promote employment in its area,
(d) to enhance the development and application of skills relevant to employment in its area, and
(e) to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom where it is relevant to its area to do so."
Family farms may not appear to make a large contribution to the total economic product of the South West, but as the events of last year have shown, they are of great importance to the Region. They provide the backdrop that makes it a pleasant place to live - to carry out other, more easily evaluated economic activities: and they provide the raw material for, and even the local participants in, the important tourist 'industry'. They are an essential part of the fabric of the Region. I suggest that without some representation of this sort of farming the RDA membership does not comply with the requirements of the instrument under which it is constituted. It is certainly little wonder that the RDA treated my application and those of the Buddens and Neil Robyns as they have done.
Secondly, an increasing number of the agencies which deal with our affairs in a quasi governmental capacity, like Business Link, and Energywatch, for example, are in fact private limited companies. I am very disturbed to find that Companies are no longer required to list their Directors on their notepaper and Companies House will only release details of Company directors on payment of a fee. The advice from Companies House when I inquired, was that I may be able to see a register of directors at the registered office of the company if I made an appointment to do so.
This seems disturbingly non transparent. While I accept that it may be justifiable for Companies House to make a charge for posting or faxing information which they hold about a Company, I cannot see why they should charge to allow inspection of these details on the internet. They provide a summary of the annual filing details for free inspection; but these do not include the important details of the directors.
I wonder whether you find these matters as unsatisfactory as I do: and I should be grateful for any assistance in remedying them.