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MPs have called for local government to have more control over regional development agencies. ...
MPs have called for local government to have more control over regional development agencies.

The call came on Monday in a report from the Commons' Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee on RDAs.

Commenting on the government's RDA plans, it said: 'We are concerned about the lack of clarity in the white paper about how the regional development agencies will be accountable to the regional, voluntary chambers. We recommend that the accountability of the agencies to these chambers be more clearly specified. In particular, we recommend the chambers approve the corporate plans and budgets of the agencies.'

The MPs called for ministers to clarify relations between the agencies and other bodies, notably the government offices for the regions. They welcomed the government's commitment to the principle of subsidiarity 'but seek clarification on how the principle will be implemented'. The report says the agencies should take over responsibility for training from the government's regional offices.

The MPs also questioned how the agencies will balance the conflicting priorities of sustainability, regional planning and economic development.

They also endorsed concerns expressed by the Confederation of British Industry that the agencies might not attract high calibre board members.

The Local Government Association welcomed the report as a boost to its campaign to make the agencies more accountable. The LGA had been pressing the government to explain the relationship between the agencies and government regional offices and the precise role the new bodies would perform on issues such as sustainability.

LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham, who gave evidence to the select committee in December, said: 'I am delighted the committee has listened to our concerns. These recommendations from such a key political body add great weight to our campaign for RDAs to be properly accountable at regional level.

'This Bill has much potential for improving local democracy. I hope, for the long-term effectiveness of RDAs, that the government will take note of the issues that have been highlighted.'

- Regional development agencies is published by the Stationery Office, tel: 01603 622211, price:£18.

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