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'ENGLAND DOESN'T NEED NEW REGIONAL POLITICIANS' - TORIES

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Speaking ahead of Stephen Byers' and John Prescott's Regions White Paper, ...
Speaking ahead of Stephen Byers' and John Prescott's Regions White Paper,

published tomorrow, Theresa May, shadow secretary of state for transport,

local government and the regions, attacked Labour's plans for a new tier of

regional politicians. She said:

'England already has enough politicians. Public services won't improve by

creating a new type of politician. More talking shops won't boost economic

growth or help the vulnerable.

'These new politicians will not come cheap. Based on the cost of the London

assembly, such regional talking shops outside London could cost£200m

a year in administration alone; and based on what's happening in Scotland

and Wales we could be looking at hundreds of millions being spent on new

buildings. On top of this, Labour's plans to restructure local government

and abolish the shires will cost up to£2bn in one-off costs. In all,

the total is likely to be equivalent to another 1p on income tax.

'What's more regional government will make government more distant from the

local taxpayer. These assemblies are a centralising tool, taking power away

from local councils - such as over planning and transport. Nor will they

mean fewer quangos - the number has exploded in Wales. Tiers of bureaucracy

like the government offices for the regions will also increase in size.

'If this centralising government genuinely believed in giving more power to

local communities, it would be reducing Whitehall intervention in local

government. But the fact is that such interference has soared under Labour.'

Notes

England's Growing Politicians

Type Number

MPs 529

Peers 517

MEPs 71

Regional Assembly Members Est. 225

Councillors 19,852

Parish Councillors 90,000

Population 49,997,000

Total Politicians 111,194

Politicians per 1,000 population 2.2

- English element of Lords calculated on per capita basis from total House

of Lords size of 618.

- Size of English regional assemblies based on size of London Assembly (25

elected) x 9.

- According to the National Association of Local Councils, there are 9,000

parish/town councils in England, with an average of 10 councillors per parish.

Estimated Cost of Regional Assemblies in England outside London

Yearly Administration Costs£200m Based on per capita admin cost of

GLA.

Local Govt Restructuring£2,000m Based on cost of Humberside

restructuring in 1999 x 34

New Buildings (£50m x8)£400m Based on cost of Welsh Assembly

building x 8

Total£2,600m

1p on income tax£2,750m

* London's regional assembly, the Greater London Authority,

spends£34m a year on administration. Based on its per capita cost

(£4.75 per Londoner), regional assemblies in England outside London would

cost£200m a year. This excludes programme expenditure, which would

involve additional waste.

* The abolition of county councils would entail sizeable

one-off local government reorganisation costs. During the last local

government reorganisation, abolishing Humberside County Council (John

Prescott's local council)and restructuring local district councils, cost

£53 million in one-off reorganisation administrative costs (HC Debs, col.

658W, 18 November 1998). Using Humberside as a benchmark figure, abolishing

the remaining 34 county councils could cost up to£1.8bn in 1999

figures - equivalent to£2bn today.

More Quangos

In Wales, the establishment of the Welsh Assembly has been accompanied by a

new series of quangos - regional tourism partnerships, regional economic

forums, regional public transport groups and regional groups to deliver

waste, education, training and health strategies. The Welsh Local Government

Association has asserted that the regional arrangements 'effectively shift

the focus away from community level and raise questions about how local

authorities can fulfil their community leadership role if decision-making no

longer rests solely with them' (WLGA, Regionalism in Wales, July 2001).

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