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YOUR REGION - YOUR SAY

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People across England now have the chance to say whether they want a...
People across England now have the chance to say whether they want a

referendum in their region on having a directly elected regional

assembly, local government and regions minister Nick Raynsford said

today.

This opportunity comes with the launch of a soundings exercise to

test the level of interest in each English region - outside London -

in holding a referendum. Responses will be used as part of the

process leading up to a decision on which region(s) should be the

first one(s) to vote.

Mr Raynsford said:

'Elected regional assemblies will give people in the region their own

distinct political voice and a real say over decisions that matter to

them. But we have no intention of forcing elected assemblies on any

region, we believe that people should be given the opportunity to

make that choice.

'Our referendums Bill - currently going through parliament - does

just that. It gives the English regions the historic opportunity to

decide by allowing referendums to take place. Fundamental to this

process will be the level of interest in each region in holding a

referendum.

'But this is all about choice. We recognise that interest in regional

government varies across the country. People in some regions will

want a referendum at the first opportunity, others will be content

for now with the current arrangements.

'That is why today we are asking for people in all regions to give us

their views. Over the next three months we want them to tell us

whether they want their region to hold a referendum. We also want to

hear from local authorities, local MPs and MEPs, regional chambers

and others including business interests and the voluntary sector.'

Details on how people can express their views are outlined in a

document published by ODPM today (see here).

At the same time the government is also seeking views on draft

guidance which the Boundary Committee for England will use when

undertaking a review of local government in a region(s) before a

referendum takes place. The review would recommend the best unitary

structure within the region for those areas presently with two-tiers

of local government.

Mr Raynsford commented:

'In regions where people vote to have an elected regional assembly,

the region will move to wholly unitary local government to ensure

that government remains streamlined. The boundary committee will

recommend whatever unitary structure it thinks best for the

region(s).

'It is important that the recommended structure can deliver the

government's modernisation agenda and that the new authorities can

effectively engage and lead their communities and deliver quality

services. The draft guidance therefore suggests that this should be

part of the Boundary Committee's considerations when drawing up its

proposals.'

The deadline for responses to both the soundings exercise and the

consultation on the draft guidance is 3 March 2003.

Decisions on which region(s) should be subject to a review of local

government will be taken shortly after the Bill enabling referendums

to take place receives Royal Assent. This should allow the first

referendum(s) to be held during the lifetime of the current

parliament.

Notes

1. Nick Raynsford launched the soundings exercise and consultation at

an LGA conference, Regional Devolution - The Next Steps.

He also made a written statement to parliament (copy below).

2. Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill, Soundings exercise on the

level of interest in each English region in holding a referendum

about establishing an elected regional assembly is available from:

Free Literature

PO Box 236

Wetherby

LS23 7NB

0870 1226 236

3. Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill Local Government Reviews

Guidance Consultation is available from:

Samantha Caughey

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Zone 5/B1 Eland House

Bressenden Place

LONDON

SW1E 5DU

or website:

www.local-regions.odpm.gov.uk/consult/assembly-bill/index.htm

4. Copy of Nick Raynsford's statement to parliament:

SOUNDINGS EXERCISE AND CONSULTATION ON GUIDANCE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT

REVIEWS

I am today launching a soundings exercise on the level of interest in

each English region (outside London) in holding a referendum about

establishing an elected regional assembly. I will be writing to all

Members in the English regions outside London about the soundings

exercise to invite their views. Copies of the document have also been

deposited in the Vote Office for convenience.

I am also publishing today, for consultation, a draft of the guidance

to the Boundary Committee for England on local government reviews.

Copies of the soundings and consultation papers have been deposited

in the House Libraries. They are also available on the ODPM web site.

Responses to both the soundings exercise and the consultation on the

guidance are requested by 3 March 2003.

The Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill currently before

Parliament enables the Secretary of State, by order, to specify the

region(s) to hold a referendum about establishing an elected regional

assembly. Before the Secretary of State can order a referendum, the

Bill requires that the Boundary Committee for England has been

directed to carry out, and has made recommendations arising out of, a

local government review of the region. The level of interest in

holding a referendum will be a key factor in deciding where a review

is to be carried out. So this policy gives people a choice.

Our proposals for elected regional assemblies will increase

democracy, not bureaucracy. In regions where people vote to have an

elected assembly we intend to streamline government by moving to a

wholly unitary local government structure. Before an order causing a

referendum to be held in the region can be made, the Boundary

Committee will have conducted a review of local government in the

region and made its recommendations for the best unitary structure

for those parts of the region thatcurrently have both a county and

district council.

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