A controversial quango responsible for managing the economic development of the South East has made a plea for greater independence.

SEEDA, which has a budget of £167 million, has asked to receive its funding directly from the Treasury, rather than the existing "single pot" system.

Funds from six Government departments are pooled together and dished out to regional development agencies (RDAs) by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Now Britain's nine RDAs - including SEEDA - want to cut their links with the DTI, which slashed its own contribution to the single pot fund by £50 million in February.

Tim Dunford, senior communications officer for the RDAs, said: "It is one of the options. We will have to see what the Treasury makes of it."

RDAs have been controversial since their launch in 1999.

Opponents regard them as a waste of money, an unnecessary duplication of existing functions and part of an agenda to "regionalise" Britain.

Earlier this year, The Argus highlighted the level of SEEDA's spending in taxis and hospitality and its invesments in businesses with links to its chairman James Brathwaite.

Another complaint is RDAs are run by unelected representatives.

SEEDA has 15 board members. Mr Brathwaite is paid £76,000 a year for his three-day-a-week post.

The deputy chairman is paid £16,000 for a one-day-a-week post.

And the remaining 12 members, including former Brighton and Hove City councillor Sue John, are paid £8,316 per year for a commitment of just two days a month.

Defenders of RDAs argue many economic and public service issues are too large to be addressed at county level and require organisation by an single body.

They also point to RDAs' remit to tackle the needs of rural, as well as urban, areas and small pockets of deprivation within otherwise prosperous communities.

The Treasury is carrying out a review of spending in the regions as part of its sub-national economic and development review.

One option is for RDAs to merge with government offices, which act as central government's eyes and ears in the regions.

The Conservatives have said they would abolish RDAs and instead direct money to parts of the country deemed to need it most.