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LGA VOWS TO ENSURE NO LOSS OF TOWN HALL POWERS TO REGIONS

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Around three quarters of councils believe that regional assemblies will take ...
Around three quarters of councils believe that regional assemblies will take

powers away from councils, rather than have them devolved from central

government.

This is one of the main findings of a Local Government Association survey published today entitled `Regional governance - a survey of local councils'.* All local authorities in England were invited to respond to the survey in which they were asked

for their views on the regional governance agenda, focusing on their current

relationships with regional bodies and other organisations, the strengths of

English regions and the powers and functions of assemblies.

Other results from the survey show that:

- 34% of local authorities agreed that an elected regional assembly would

bring government closer to the people

- 61% of local authorities agreed that an elected regional assembly would

help improve the economic conditions in the regions

- 42% of local authorities agreed that there will be an elected regional

assembly in their region by 2007

LGA chair Jeremy Beecham said:

`The association's members take different views about the merits of regional

government depending on geographical influences. Ultimately, local

communities should be able to choose what system of council or regional

government is best suited to their own areas.

`However, if regional assemblies are to be set up, their powers must be

cascaded down from Whitehall and not taken away from local government. The

Association will be working with the ODPM on the form and method of working of the proposed regional assemblies and is working to influence the forthcoming Bill.

`The LGA will be holding the government to account on its regions white

paper promise, that no powers will be drawn up from local government, to

ensure that local government is the front line deliverer of many of the

proposed regional strategies and to ensure that communities have proper

representation and involvement.'< p/="">

NOTES

1) The `Your Region, Your Choice' White Paper published by the government in

May 2002 set out the proposed route forward for the English regions outside

of London. One of the key points in the LGA's response to the paper was to

commission a more thorough assessment of the government's proposals by

agreeing six key tests of regional democracy that should be met before

regional devolution can take place. These are:

- Any regional assembly must have sufficient powers and funds to make a real

difference

- Any new structures must increase accountability to local people

- Power should be devolved from Westminster, not sucked up from local

government

- Any new arrangements should be flexible to reflect the uneven demand

across the country for a regional dimension to public policy

- Decisions taken at regional level should be transparent and open to public

scrutiny

- Any changes must build on and respect existing strengths and

collaborations

2) The association is also finalising the UK Forum for Local Government

report on learning lessons from devolution to date in Wales, Scotland,

London and Northern Ireland.

3) The association has commissioned the University of Birmingham to

undertake some research into the proposals associated with the chapter two

proposals within the Regions White Paper. This research will be available by

late summer.

* The findings are available here.

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