Government funding needs more accountability

Posted on 12 Apr 2012 by Tim Brown

Following on from last week's news where we reported the allocation of £4.69m from the Regional Growth Fund to Bentley Motors, a comment on our site raised some interesting questions on the topic.

Voicing his/her ire at the allocation, the comment from one of our users Hunter S T said the funding recipient choice was poor due to the luxurious nature of the company’s product and the fact that it is owned by VW, one of the worlds most successful car companies. VW’s net profit in 2011 was £15.4bn.

Saving the most poignant comment for last, Hunter S T writes: “I want some level of transparency as to where this money goes. No matter whether it’s Nissan, Rolls-Royce or Bentley, whenever these big companies get a hand-out from the Government, it hits the headlines and then disappears. As a taxpayer I demand to know how this money has benefited the UK population!”

This raises an important point. While Bentley Motors has said the funding will in part contribute to R&D, Wolfgang Durheimer, Bentley’s chairman and chief executive also said, rather ambiguously, that the funding will “help ensure that we have a skilled workforce we need to deliver our projects and remain globally competitive.” It sounds laudible but where is the detail?

It is definitely more than fair that organisations that have received funding, or are in-line to do so, (and there have been many including Cummins, Calsonic Kansei, Rolls-Royce, Samulet, Nissan, and even some now non-existent quangos such as Advantage West Midlands) provide explanation of where taxpayer funding has been spent and what specific benefits the funding has provided.

When so many hands are outstretched, including education and health, funding of companies with public money needs to be more accountable. I would like to see a documented list of the last three years worth of state funding including loan guarantees, where it has been spent and some explanation of why companies, whose top executives are often well remunerated, deserve taxpayer funding.