04 April 2008
Town halls have voiced concerns over plans to give greater responsibility to regional development agencies.
The government has opened consultation on proposals outlined last July in the
Sub-National Review of Economic Development and Regeneration, which would spell the end of regional assemblies and give councils more responsibility over regional economies.
The Local Government Association says the consultation document, issued by the departments for Communities & Local Government and Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform leaves questions unanswered.
LGA chair Sir Simon Milton said: 'Serious questions need to be asked about the future accountability of regional development agencies and how they can be made accountable to local people for decisions about regional planning strategies.'
He said such strategies could affect property rights and would direct the development of towns, cities and districts. The proposal for ministerial approval of RDA strategies might undermine efforts to agree plans with local authorities, the LGA added.
Fears about a democratic deficit were also raised by the Royal Town Planning Institute. Policy director Rynd Smith said: 'The sub-national review is a massive overhaul of the regional planning system and it is vital that whatever structure is introduced gives the public both a direct say in planning decisions, through appropriate community engagement, and an indirect one, through the oversight of plans by elected representatives.'
The government hopes the reforms of regional government will lead to a renaissance in England's most deprived areas, with local accountability of RDAs led by regional forums of council leaders, and the creation of regional select committees in Westminster.
The review will also give top-tier councils a statutory duty to carry out local economic assessments, feeding into regional economic strategies.