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The county council has today responded to the government white paper released yesterday outlining the future role o...
The county council has today responded to the government white paper released yesterday outlining the future role of directly elected regional assemblies by issuing the following statement.

Cumbria CC believes there is a big question over plans for regional government: it must not be allowed to destroy the strong, economic and strategic work which is currently done by county councils.

Any new regional government must draw down powers and duties from central government, and replace existing unelected regional organisations which could then be abolished. Regional government must not take governance powers away from local communities.

There are many strategic services that are currently delivered by county councils which cannot be effectively and easily delivered by small councils. The role of county-wide government in Cumbria, in this regard, is particularly valuable given the almost unique and the diverse nature of Cumbria, and it must, therefore, be built upon.

There are currently many government agencies and strategic partnerships which have been implemented and continue to evolve on a Cumbria-wide basis. There is a need for these bodies to be developed further, to be held accountable, and for their individual contributions to be coordinated by a democratically-elected, county-wide authority.

Council leader Rex Toft said:

'Government says that it will devolve powers down to elected regional assemblies, if people vote for them in a referendum.

If unitary government is forced on Cumbria as a consequence of regional government, we must ensure that the key strengths and roles of county councils are not lost.

If government really intends only to decentralise power down, and not to take power away from local government, then there can be no threat to county-level governance.

The need for county councils to continue to deliver high quality services will remain.

Democratic accountability at the local level must be preserved.

There will be a referendum in our region before any change can take place, and I shall be encouraging local people to protect their local democracy.'

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