Headlines: May 11th, 2002

The Government says it is offering the regions of England the same opportunity for self-government enjoyed in Scotland and Wales.But the development has already been criticised as a possible further erosion of local government, rather than offering any real new freedoms or powers.

The White Paper on regional governance, “Your Region – Your Choice: Revitalising the English Regions” offers the opportunity to establish directly elected assemblies in the English regions

It has been heralded as an opportunity for the regions to take up the chance to improve their economic performance, delivering jobs, prosperity and better public services.

But while the bill offers to decentralise both power and decision-making, the Local Government Association has warned that the workload of these new organisations could effectively be drawn up from local councils, not down from Government.

It has set a test for the scheme which it says will reveal whether there’s any true strengthening of local democracy. These include whether the new entities have sufficient powers and resources to make a real difference, and how open to scrutiny their decisions will be.

There are already Regional Development Agencies in each of the English regions and it is likely that these will form the infrastructure of the any new assemblies. These already have an economic development brief, to which will be added housing, planning and transport.

The White Paper will be available on www.regions.dtlr.gov.uk/governance/whitepaper/index.htm

The six tests set by the LGA can be found at www.lga.gov.uk