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DRAFT PROPOSALS FOR POWER SHIFT TO REGIONS

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The West Midlands Constitutional Convention is seeking views on proposals for a major shift of government power fro...
The West Midlands Constitutional Convention is seeking views on proposals for a major shift of government power from Westminster and Whitehall to (insert County or Sub Region name where appropriate) and the West Midlands Region.

The report, 'Our Region-Our Choice-Making the Difference' says the West Midlands region is losing out to London, the South East, Wales and Scotland which have their own directly elected national or regional governments. It also says that the region will lose out further as all or some of the Northern regions of England vote next year.

Local government does not have the solidarity and clout and central government is too distant and fragmented to make the difference that is needed, says the report.

The convention has concluded that that only by moving to a strong directly elected regional assembly can the region hope to make the difference that voters want and the region needs.

Key issues identified by the convention which need to be tackled include the ever widening wealth gap between the West Midlands and the more prosperous and influential London, the South East, Wales and Scotland; the continuing failure of the region's existing unaccountable regional government to deliver the investment and modernisation needed of the region's transport, education and skills training, public health, housing and other key public services.

The conventions says that the West Midlands needs a devolution settlement, which goes much further than what the government is proposing for the English regions. It says that responsibilities and related resources, which have a regional dimension and are at present controlled from Westminster and Whitehall should be transferred to a directly elected West Midlands Regional Assembly. The 50 regional and sub regional quangos operating in the region would be directly accountable to the assembly and national quangos and regulatory bodies would have a duty to take into account the assemblies views and report to it.

The new regional assembly would be elected by proportional representation to ensure that all parts of the region and as wide a range of interests have a say in the region's affairs. The elected members would take and be accountable to voters for all the assembly's main decisions.

The assembly members would share with business, local and central government. Trade unions, voluntary, community, faith and other regional interests the making of policy and would seek new ways of involving the public in its work.

The size of the proposed assembly has yet to be agreed by the convention, but the report includes alternatives ranging between a total of 35 and 60 members.

Convention chair Colin Beardwood said: 'Only with directly elected regional government can we expect to provide the leadership and focus that is needed to draw power from Westminster and Whitehall and engage voters in the better government of their locality and the region. Parts of our region and particular groups, especially young adults, women and ethnic minorities are at present excluded and significantly under-represented. Moving to democratically accountable regional government can provide new opportunities for all. What we are proposing could not happen overnight but we believe that we have to know where were going and to make a start on moving in that direction as soon as possible. The issue cannot be left to drag on and needs to be brought to a conclusion sooner rather than later. That is why we have said that 2006 or soon after the next general election should be the target for voters to have their say on the proposals'.

NOTES

1. The full report, which includes the summary, details of the proposals and the regional review, which underpins them, is available on the convention's website.

2. Views on the convention's proposals are being sought by 31 March 2004. Views can be sent by email to wmccconcov2002@aol.com or via the website: www.wmccweb.org. uk

By post: The West Midlands Constitutional Convention, c/o The Leaders Office.PO Box 213,Telford TF3 4LD. Tel 01952 202451, fax 01952 290820.

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