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LABOUR REVIEW STANCE SPARKS ROW

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Dennis Pettitt, Labour chairman of the Association of County Councils, this week accused his party of ignoring publ...
Dennis Pettitt, Labour chairman of the Association of County Councils, this week accused his party of ignoring public opinion in its continuing support for the review.

His comments followed the news that Labour Shadow Environment Secretary Jack Straw headed off Mr Pettitt's bid to persuade party leader John Smith to withdraw Labour's backing for replacing two council tiers with one. Labour's ruling national executive committee approved a paper by Mr Straw on Monday which confirms the party's support for district based unitary councils. Mr Straw's move follows a private meeting with Environment Secretary John Gummer before Christmas.

The review is likely to be the most controversial topic at a meeting due on Tuesday between Mr Smith and the three Labour chairmen of the local authority associations. But the NEC meeting has now effectively tied Mr Smith into backing Mr Straw's policy.

Mr Smith's commitment to regional assemblies, which would not sit well with two lower council tiers, has made it more difficult for county leaders to press their case.

Mr Pettitt said the party had never properly debated local government structure. 'Every constituency party in Nottinghamshire is in favour of status quo. Every opinion poll in the country supports status quo. I don't think the Labour Party can ignore the views of the people'.
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