Mandelson puts people first in devolution debate

12 Jul 01
Peter Mandelson has outlined a vision of English devolution that puts 'people before structures' and gives communities the tools to bring about their own renaissance.

13 July 2001

The former Cabinet minister, who has established himself as a vocal supporter of regional assemblies in recent months, told Public Finance that decentralisation of power and money was needed to give ordinary people greater control over their lives. Strengthening communities in this way should be at the heart of any move towards English regionalism.

'This is not a new insight but I'm not quite sure how firmly grasped it is as yet,' Mandelson added. 'We must make sure we go the whole hog to enable people and communities to be placed at the centre of regeneration activity.'

Mandelson said that central government should avoid being caught up in esoteric discussions about structures. But he conceded that many questions would need to be answered before English devolution could get off the starting blocks.

'What role and what powers will regional authorities have? What will the relationship with the rest of local government be? What planning and policy implementation will be in the hands of regional authorities?' he pondered.

But he stressed that regional assemblies would be introduced only where there was genuine support for them. Mandelson made his comments at an LGA conference fringe meeting organised by the New Local Government Network think-tank.

During his speech he told delegates that a false choice was being posited between regional assemblies and directly elected mayors and that the two could exist in tandem.

'The challenge is to devise mechanisms of governance that complement each other and streamline the work of local, regional and central government,' he said.


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