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LGA 2002 CONFERENCE REPORT - PRESCOTT SPEECH FAILS TO IMPRESS

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Deputy prime minister John Prescott said nothing about freedoms and flexibilities for local government in a speech ...
Deputy prime minister John Prescott said nothing about freedoms and flexibilities for local government in a speech that made little impression on delegates at the Local Government Association annual conference.

He apologised for his speech beforehand, saying: 'This policy area changes very quickly so you'll have to give me a little time to read into the brief.'

Mr Prescott said his personal priorities were finance, housing and planning.

He warned financial reform would take time and not everyone would gain, as even the LGA found it impossible to produce a formula everyone agreed on.

He said: 'We want a simpler, fairer way of distributing grants, but let's be realistic. Last time the LGA gave me 43 individual formulas to choose from and no-one could identify one to agree on. I've never yet seen one that increases everyone's share.

'Everybody can't have everything they want. Tough decisions need to be made - it's called politics.'

He reiterated his expectation that at least one referendum for a regional assembly would happen by the end of this Parliament.

But he failed to address delegates' nagging fear that the comprehensive performance assessment is being fast-tracked while freedoms and flexibilities are being sidelined.

Rodney Bass (Con), leader of Maldon DC, said: 'He didn't say anything about freedoms and flexibilities. It was all taken up with his obsession about regionalism, which is a big distraction for local government.'

Stephanie Elsy, former Labour leader of Southwark LBC and now an assistant to Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales, said: 'No surprises - typical Prescott speech. There wasn't a lot of detail.'

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