14 November 2008
By Paul Dicken
Town halls are using newly devolved powers to help residents and businesses deal with the economic slowdown, council leaders have said.
The Regional Economic Council, part of the economic recovery package announced by the prime minister in October, also held its first meeting on November 5 to ensure that the concerns raised by individual regions were heard at the national level.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, who co-chairs the council with Chancellor Alistair Darling, said the council would ensure that regional concerns were 'properly understood and responded to by government'. Local Government Association chair Margaret Eaton said local authorities were at the centre of helping people, businesses and other groups through tough economic times.
'Councils are using new powers passed down from central government and making things better for local people as a result. This drive to localism must continue if we are to protect people from the worst effects of an economic slowdown and make rapid progress towards recovery.'
In a report, Global slowdown, local solutions, the LGA identified a range of measures under way at a local level.
Examples include Wakefield Council offering people at risk of repossession interest-free loans to stay in their homes, and Lancashire County Council identifying over 500 people not claiming benefits to which they were entitled.
The first REC meeting was attended by regional ministers, regional development agencies, council leaders and business organisations.
It was described as an 'intelligence gathering' exercise by a Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform spokesman, with the council likely to have a 'major impact on policy and action'.
Regional ministers have also established area-specific commissions, cabinets and delivery groups.