Beecham calls for Public Service Agreements for regional assemblies

30 May 02
Public Service Agreements should be expanded to cover the proposed regional assemblies, to give them more freedom to target resources at regional priorities, England's most senior local government leader has said.

31 May 2002

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the Local Government Association, told the Royal Geographic Society that there was a case for the new assemblies to develop PSAs along the same lines as those for Whitehall and local government.

Speaking on May 29, he argued that under the PSAs, which would outline a number of service priorities, the assemblies should be able to negotiate a single regional budget. This would allow them to pool or shift funds from other areas to meet the region's objectives. 'If improving intraregional transport is a priority for the Northeast as opposed to investment in tourism, why not negotiate that outcome?' he said.

Under current plans, the assemblies will have control of only a fraction of public expenditure, despite strategic powers in housing, planning, transport and culture.

Beecham suggested that the PSAs, which will give councils extra cash if they meet targets, would give the assemblies more power.

'What we could, therefore, see develop is a much more genuine devolution of power and influence than was ever envisaged for RDAs, coupled with a much stronger representational role,' he said.

Beecham, who emphasised that he was speaking in a personal capacity due to the LGA's failure to agree a firm policy on regionalism, also touched on the sticky subject of abolishing county councils.

People should be offered a choice in the same poll, he said. 'They could be asked whether they are in favour of regional assemblies and, if so, in two-tier areas whether they want two-tier or unitary local government.'


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