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.'
England's Growing Politicians
Regional Assembly Members Est. 225
Parish Councillors 90,000
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
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
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.
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).