Headlines: May 29th, 2003

Almost half of England’s local councils believe there will be regional assembly government in their areas within the next four years and they believe the assemblies will take power away from them rather than the new bodies having responsibilities devolved from central government.The Local Government Association has surveyed all England’s councils, asking their views on the regional governance agenda and focussing on their current relationships with regional bodies. The survey also looked at the strengths of the English regions and the powers and functions of the assemblies.

As well as finding that around 75 per cent of authorities feel they will lose powers to the new bodies the survey results show that just over a third agree that an elected regional assembly will bring government closer to the people and 61% see an elected assembly helping to improve the economic conditions in the regions. More than four in ten councils think there will be an elected assembly in their region by 2007.

LGA Chair, Sir Jeremy Beecham, said the association’s members had different views about the merits of regional government depending on geographical influences and ultimately, local communities should be able to choose what system of council or regional government was best suited to their areas. But he said if the assemblies were set up their powers should be cascaded down from Whitehall and not taken away from local government.

“The LGA will be holding the government to account on its regions white paper promise, that no powers will be drawn up from local government, to ensure that local government is the front line deliverer of many of the proposed regional strategies and to ensure that communities have proper representation and involvement,” he said.