Armstrong rejects elected chambers for regional bodies

2 Sep 99
Hilary Armstrong will rule out, for the time being, directly elected chambers for the newly formed regional development agencies (RDAs). This reflects the prime minister's view on the issue.

03 September 1999

In her first speech as minister for the regions, regeneration and planning since July's minor government reshuffle, Armstrong will instead emphasise what RDAs can do for local economies, rather than how they should be structured.

She will also urge the need for joined-up thinking at a regional level and back the role of the private sector in economic development.

Armstrong's speech, at a conference organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research*, will disappoint many within her own party who see the chambers as the first step towards regional government in England.

It will also mark a new approach to the issue of regions led by Number 10, rather than by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. The reshuffle saw the previous minister, Richard Caborn, a strong advocate of RDAs and an ally of Prescott's, moved to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Armstrong is thought to be less enthusiastic about the regions, something she shares with the prime minister.

'Tony Blair has given an important job to one of his most trusted ministers,' said Matthew Taylor, director at the IPPR.

Currently, there are eight RDAs up and running across England. A ninth, in London, will come into being next year. All RDAs have chambers working alongside, whose members are, at the moment, appointed.

A government source said Labour remained 'committed' to RDAs. He said directly elected chambers would be allowed for those who wanted them, 'in time'. But first the RDAs would have to be given time to 'bed down'.

'Local people have to feel that the creation of RDAs is a real devolution of power and resources to the regions,' said the source.

*For tickets and more information about the conference, please contact Robert King at the IPPR on 0171 470 6100


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