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CURRY: 'BALLS' TO GIVE COUNCILLORS REGIONAL OVERSIGHT

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The Economist (p36) looks at the report on regional government debated by the Association of Metropolitan Authoriti...
The Economist (p36) looks at the report on regional government debated by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities' policy committee yesterday, and concludes that 'the bare bones of regional government may already exist, but before flesh can be added, someone has to demonstrate that voters want it'.

The AMA report - which says the regional bodies that many local authorities have formed to pursue their joint interests could become the means to make some of the regional arms of central government more locally accountable - fits with the approach likely to be taken by shadow home secretary Jack Straw when he publishes Labour's consultation paper on regional government in June, says The Economist.

The power of the government's existing regional offices prompted Mr Straw to argue in a recent speech that regional directors wield more power than elected council leaders.

The north-west regional office, he claimed, had a budget of £700m last year compared with Manchester City Council's budget of £442m.

'Mr Straw's figures are a bit of a cheat' says The Economist, because they do not include the budgets of all the other councils in the north-west, and his claims on lack of accountability ignore the involvement of elected government ministers.

It is 'balls' to talk of giving local councillors oversight of the regional directors' budgets. 'This is central government money', says environment minister David Curry.

On the subject of urban regeneration bids, Mr Curry says:

'No decision was taken by regional officers. I sat down and went through every single bid with the regional directors'.

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