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LGIU QUERIES LABOUR'S COMMITMENT TO REGIONAL ASSEMBLIES

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Labour's commitment to set up a regional tier of government in England has been questioned by the director of the L...
Labour's commitment to set up a regional tier of government in England has been questioned by the director of the Local Government Information Unit Dennis Reed.

In an article for the Municipal Journal Mr Reed wonders whether the party's consultation document - 'A choice for England' - describes a genuinely evolutionary process towards regional government or a 'half hearted effort which will collapse under the weight of its checks and balances.'

The LGIU has made demands in response to the Labour party consultation including:

-- a call for regional government not to take powers from existing councils. The LGIU says Labour is 'worryingly vague' about the central and quango functions which could pass to a regional tier

-- consideration of the structure and functions of regional and local government should be one exercise

-- an agreed timetable for further local government reorganisation. The proposal that indirectly elected regional chambers should agree arrangements for unitary local government before a directly elected assembly could be contemplated is not 'practical politics' says the unit

-- further consideration of funding issues. 'There is no justification for the price tag for improving democracy being picked up by councils'

-- a date should be set nationally for regional chambers to be set up throughout England

Mr Reed concludes: 'If regional government is merely a question of snicking the odd parts of functions from central or local government ... without any real influence, it will be at best irrelevant to the public, and at worst regarded as bureaucratic nonsense.

'However, if it is introduced as part of a wider constitutional settlement involving real decentralisation of power to local and regional levels we would be in a position to catch up with the best in Europe.'

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