Armstrong looks at business input to regions

24 Feb 00
Business leaders could be directly elected to regional chambers under a proposal being considered by the government to widen the background of those determining regional policy at local level.

25 February 2000

If Labour adopted such a proposal, it could dramatically increase the influence of the private sector on the eight existing chambers, which are currently dominated by local government representatives.

Regions minister Hilary Armstrong, speaking at a Local Government Association committee hearing into regional policy on February 23, said Labour was looking for a 'breadth of ideas and representatives' for regional institutions. The range of people coming into local government had narrowed substantially in recent years, she said.

Now the government is looking to recruit people with a corporate background to help establish new forms of governance at the local level.

'I think the idea of business people being elected is very interesting,' she said.

The chambers, whose remit is to hold regional development agencies to account, are currently made up of about two-thirds' local government representatives and the rest from the private and voluntary sectors. None are directly elected. Those who have advocated elected chamber members claim it would increase their legitimacy.

Armstrong also said that regional policy needed better co-ordination to deliver results. Last week a Performance and Innovation Unit reported that Labour's regional approach was confusing and fragmented. The minister said the government had accepted these findings.

The LGA's committee, chaired by Lord Dearing, will produce its findings in the spring.


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