Headlines: March 20th, 1998

The decks are being cleared for regional government. Nine Regional Development Agencies are to be set up by April 1999 to develop and implement regional economic strategies. The Agencies will co-ordinate the activities of other bodies such as local authorities and Government regional offices. The north west region, for historic reasons, had two Government offices based in Manchester and Liverpool. It has been announced that, although a presence will be maintained in both locations, the offices will merge to form a North West regional office. The new combined office will be opened by October in time for the establishment of the shadow Regional Development Agency. This now means there will be a one to one relationship between Government offices and the Agencies throughout the UK.The other development that will ultimately lead to a form of regional government will be the setting up of voluntary Regional Chambers which will bring together elected representatives from local authorities and other regional partners. The relationship between the Voluntary Chambers and the Agencies has been set out in some detail and it is clear that Agencies will be required to consult the Chambers on their corporate plans and to be open to their scrutiny.