England behind on devolution

11 May 00
Moves towards regionalisation in England have brought about no significant devolution of power, according to findings published by the Local Government Association on May 8.

12 May 2000

A panel chaired by Lord Dearing, found that Whitehall retains regional control, despite the creation of regional development agencies (RDAs) and the recognition of voluntary regional chambers last year.

The panel of cross-party councillors and council chief executives also concluded that there is an inverse relationship between power and accountability within the two bodies.

According to the report, RDAs have more power than the regional chambers but are less accountable than them.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Lord Dearing said: 'Power has been very largely contained in the Whitehall machine. We want to move from pushing out administration to democratic involvement.'

He added: 'Councils themselves must assert their role as strong partners at regional, local and sub-regional level to ensure that any changes to the machinery of institutions and strategies at regional levels keep decision-making as close as possible to people affected.'

The Local Government Association believes further regionalisation is inevitable and asked the panel to suggest ways in which local authorities may want to influence future change.

The report, Regional Variations, calls for greater devolution of power in England but recognises that a single model of regional government may not suit all areas of the country.

The report acknowledges that a 'city region' model may gain currency if mayors are elected in English cities over the next five years. But it urges the LGA to consider possible models for areas that do not fall into an obvious 'city region'.

l Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott revealed plans to strengthen the work of RDAs when he addressed the MSF union conference on May 8. He said the measures would be announced in conjunction with Chancellor Gordon Brown during the next Spending Review in July.


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