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REGIONS THREATEN LOCAL POWERS

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Local government will have to cede powers to elected assemblies in order to make them work effectively, according t...
Local government will have to cede powers to elected assemblies in order to make them work effectively, according to a key figure in the campaign for English devolution.

Steve Machin, secretary of the North West Constitutional Convention, argued it made sense for local government to cede some of its powers in order for coherent regional strategies to be formulated.

Mr Machin, who is also chief executive of the existing non-elected assembly for the north-west, said when the time came to set up the chamber there would have to be a close look at where powers will lie.

'I think what we are trying to do is decide how the assembly will be operated in the best interests of the region,' he said.

Mr Machin said he believed local government secretary Stephen Byers did not want the forthcoming white paper on local government to be a 'one-cap-fits-all' document, but one which will allow regions to come up with their own models.

But he added: 'It's axiomatic that there has to be a restructuring of powers to meet the regions' needs and priorities.'

The government has always said elected regional assemblies would draw power from Whitehall, not from local government.

However, Mr Byers has proposed stripping county councils of their planning powers with the intention of transferring them to assemblies (LGC, 23 November 2001).

Keith House, Liberal Democrat vice chair of the South East Regional Assembly, said the point about devolution was for decisions to be made by local people.

'Local government has been so constrained over recent years, there's no need to take further power away to make regional government more effective,' he said.

Local Government Association Conservative group leader Gordon Keymer called assemblies 'dark clouds hanging over local government, waiting to soak up its powers'.

Labour first promised English devolution at the 1997 general election, a pledge repeated in last year's manifesto.

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