Tories promise more power for town halls

11 Oct 01
Shadow local government secretary Theresa May has pledged that a future Conservative administration would scrap the Government Offices for the Regions and hand their powers back to local authorities.

12 October 2001

Speaking at the party's annual conference in Blackpool, May told delegates that the nine offices were just 'another layer of bureaucracy'. She said that many of their powers, such as those relating to regional planning, regeneration and local transport, could be exercised better by local authorities.

'Councils are closer to people and have a better understanding of local problems and local needs,' May added.

She ruled out any moves towards regional government by the Tories, saying it deprived local communities of the power to control their own futures. She also accused Labour of wanting to scrap shire county councils, because its election manifesto said regional assemblies would require a unitary system of local government.

May also promised that a future Tory government would scrap the Best Value inspection regime, condemning it as bureaucratic and costly.

'Labour have swamped local councils with more plans, ring-fencing, inspections and directives. Councils are now monitored by four different inspection regimes, costing over £600m a year. Yet the Best Value regime hasn't delivered,' she said.

New Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith closed the conference by declaring that his 'greatest mission' would be reforming public services. In a reference to Labour's divisions over using the private sector to deliver services, he pledged to keep an open mind about potential solutions.

'Our European neighbours enjoy better hospitals because they put the needs of their people before the demands of dogma,' he said. 'That is our greatest mission over the coming years – to assemble a coalition of charities and churches and the public and private sectors that will deliver results.'

Duncan Smith said he had instructed his shadow Cabinet to consult as widely as possible. 'I've told them to consult those who run our public services as well as those who rely on them.'

Meanwhile, party chair David Davis said that he was setting up a policy unit to listen to experts, and planned to revive the party's policy forum to consult party members.


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