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LABOUR DENIES PLAN TO ABOLISH COUNTY COUNCILS

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Government plans for regional assemblies could cost up to£2bn, Conservatives have claimed. ...
Government plans for regional assemblies could cost up to£2bn, Conservatives have claimed.

Malcolm Moss, the party's local government spokesman, attacked the proposal recently outlined in the regions white paper (LGC, 1 March) during DTLR question time.

He told MPs: 'For that huge cost we will get not one extra teacher, not one extra social worker and no improvement whatsoever in local basic services. So what is the point?'

Fellow Tory George Osborne said people would not identify 'with some amorphous vast administrative region'.

He added: 'In the north west region, even if every single voter in Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria vote against a regional assembly they can still be out-voted by Manchester and Merseyside. Is that local

democracy?'

Liberal Democrat local government spokesman Don Foster called for voters to be given the choice of keeping county councils in any assembly referendum.

But local government minister Nick Raynsford hit back at Tory claims, pointing out they abolished county councils in Humberside, Avon, Cleveland and Berkshire.

Mr Raynsford insisted many people felt an identity with their region as well. 'You are accusing this government of having a plan for abolishing local government - we have not.'

Mr Raynsford reiterated the government's position that county councils would be scrapped if people voted in favour of regional assemblies. Voters would be 'conscious of the implications for local government' if they backed an assembly. But he added: 'There is no plan for the abolition of county councils.'

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