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REGIONAL ASSEMBLIES COULD MEAN END OF PRESENT TWO-TIER LOCAL GOVERNMENT, HINTS MINISTER

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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

DTLR minister Lord Falconer told peers the two-tier system would have to be looked at again, especially if regional assemblies were created - but he ducked Viscount Astor's question and declined to say whether it should be the county or district councils to be abolished.

He said: 'As to whether there should be two-tier authorities, in some cases it is not right that there should be. That is something which needs to be looked at particularly in the context of where there is a regional assembly.

'If one has a regional assembly and two other tiers that looks to be too many'.

Conservative front bencher Baroness Hanham said the average turnout in referendums on elected mayors was 28%, and in several cases as low as 10%, and the proposition for an elected mayor was successful in only a few local authorities. She asked the minister if he believed these experiments in local democracy were justified and would they be more popular if extended to referendums on regional assemblies.

Lord Falconer said experiments in other forms of local democracy were justified. No regional assembly would be created unless there was support for them beforehand in a referedum. The government had to identify what the successful threshold would be before the referendum takes place.

Labour's Lord Lipsey said there was a danger of electoral fatigue, with people much keener on having elections and referendums than voting in them. There was a case in the regions for supplementing referendums with other forms of test such as citizens' juries and properly conducted opinion polls.

Lord Falconer said they had a role in the development of policy, but whether there should be a regional assembly was a matter for the electorate.

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