Headlines: May 9th, 2000

The Local Government Association has urged councils to play an active role in the development of regionalisation, or face a loss of influence. The advice is based on the findings of a cross party panel of councillors chaired by Lord Deering. The panel received written and oral evidence from individuals, including local government minister Hilary Armstrong, as well as from organisations including the main political parties.The advent of Regional Development Agencies and the prospects for Regional Chambers have signalled a move towards greater regionalisation. In parallel with this trend Whitehall continues to maintain accountability for much spending at regional level. The panel concluded that there will be a move towards greater regionalisation and that unless councils get actively involved in developments, power will move away from the town hall and go to the appointees of central government.

The advice of the panel is that councils must assert their role as strong partners at regional and local level. They should argue the case that decision making should be kept as close as possible to the people affected. As the political parties are now developing their policy statements for the next election it is important that councils to start making their views known urgently.