Headlines: July 19th, 2007



Senior local authority figures believe the Government could have done more in its sub-national Review of Economic Development to free councils to take the lead in generating prosperity. Meanwhile a think-tank has called on the leaders of local councils to rise to the challenge of leading regional decision making.

The Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Simon Milton, said the review had shown the Government was beginning to free councils but needed to lead the drive for prosperity if England ‘s great towns, cities and shires were to close the gap with Europe. The prospect of real devolution of economic development budgets to councils and the idea that they should have a leading role in driving regional plans were good news.

“We have questions about the new powerful Regional Development Agencies, although no-one will mourn the demise of the existing confusing regional set-up. The new Agencies will report to council leaders, parliamentary committees of MPs and Ministers. With so many parties involved, we are seeking reassurance that local communities will retain a real say over the decisions that affect them,” he said.

The New Local Government Network, meanwhile, has welcomed the fundamental ideas in the review which it sees as being based on principles it set out earlier this year. NLGN director Chris Leslie said councils had won significant devolved powers and the review was an endorsement of a new role for local authorities in shaping and defining regional policy.

“Elected council leaders will have to step up to the plate and take ownership over bigger regional-level decisions which could bring in significant gains for their area,” he said and added, “By removing the requirement to set up regional assemblies, the Government are passing responsibility to local council leaders, who must now rise to the challenge of leading on regional decision-making.”