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By Jennifer Taylor ...
By Jennifer Taylor

The postponement of referendums on regional assemblies has left a feeling of uncertainty and instability, councils have claimed.

The decision to call off the polls in the north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber coincided with the launch of the draft Regional Assemblies Bill, which gives assemblies increased powers.

The government blamed postal voting fraud for postponing the ballot in two areas, but some councils say it was prompted by fears of a 'no' result in the run up to a general election.

Voting in the north-east is set for 4 November, when voters will say 'yes' or 'no' to an elected regional assembly, then decide which local government structure they would like to see in their area.

Despite ministers' insistence unitary government will only proceed on the back of regional assemblies, there is a growing lobby for the abolition of two-tier councils (LGC, 28 May). West Lancashire DC chief executive Bill Taylor said: 'The delay causes uncertainty and instability which has implications for morale.'

Harrogate BC chief executive Mick Walsh said: 'We have had our time wasted. They shouldn't have done it if they didn't intend to see it through.'

But some councils welcomed the delay. Craven DC Leader Carl Lis (Ind) said: 'Given the widespread lack of public support for regional government in Yorkshire, this deferral is to be welcomed.'

Congleton BC chief executive Glyn Chambers said: 'We are feeling elated [about the delay] but we are disappointed because we cannot move ahead with a unitary authority.'

The aim of regional assemblies is to improve quality of life through economic performance, the environment, social conditions and sustainable development. The draft bill gives them powers to make strategic decisions about housing, planning, transport, fire and rescue.

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