Regional Assemblies in England

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Regional Assembly is the name which has been adopted by the English bodies established as regional chambers under the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 and of the elected London Assembly. [1]


[edit] Role

Their original defined role was to channel regional opinions to the business-led Regional Development Agencies. They now carry out a wide range of advocacy and consultancy roles with national government bodies and the European Union, but their public profile is very low. Each acts as a Regional Planning Body with a duty to formulate a Regional Spatial Strategy, replacing the planning function of county councils.

[edit] Election

Eight of the nine English regional assemblies are not directly elected. About two-thirds of assembly members are appointees from the county and district councils and unitary authorities in each region, the remaining one-third are appointees from other regional interest groups. The exception is the London Assembly, which has 25 directly elected members. Its role is defined in the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

[edit] The regional assemblies

There is some inconsistency in the naming of the individual assemblies. They are:

[edit] Plans for elected assemblies

In May 2002, the Government published a White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice" [2] outlining its plans for the possible establishment of Elected Regional Assemblies. These assemblies were to be responsible for regional strategies dealing with sustainable development, economic development, spatial planning, transport, waste, housing, culture (including tourism) and biodiversity. They would be funded primarily by central government grant, with powers to raise additional funds from a precept on the council tax.

The Assemblies were expected to be elected by an Additional Member System similar to those used for the London Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. The Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Act 2003 made provisions for referendums to be held to create such assemblies, and to simplify the structure of Local Government where this is done. Three such referendums were planned, for the regions of North East and North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber.

On 12 February 2004, Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford announced that elected Assemblies would be able to direct local authorities to refuse strategic planning applications that are not in the region's best interest. They would be able to look across local boundary constraints and ensure planning decisions are made with region-wide interests taken into account. [3]

On 8 July 2004 it was announced that the referendums would be held on 4 November (see Northern England referendums, 2004) but on 2 July Nick Raynsford announced that only the North East England vote will go ahead on that date.

On 4 November 2004, voters in the North East rejected the proposal by 696,519 votes to 197,310. This result was seen as a block to elected regional assemblies elsewhere in England outside London. On 8 November, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told the House of Commons he would not move orders for the other two regions within the effective time limit of June 2005 permitted by the Act.

The eight unelected regional assemblies (including the North East) remain in place. Despite the referendum defeat the government has no plans to disband them.

[edit] Alternative arrangements

Since the General Election in May 2005, the concept of city regions has gained currency in academic, policy and government circles, with several think tanks pushing the idea as a viable alternative to elected regional assemblies. However, opinion is divided on the question of whether to impose new city regional structures from above or to allow existing elected bodies to come together on a more informal voluntary basis.

The first City Region proposal to go before ministers is the West Midlands City Region, stretching from Coventry to Telford and centered on Birmingham. There has been no public consultation and there are no plans for referenda on the subject. The idea of elected mayors has been mooted to give the City Regions some democratic legitimacy.

In Cornwall, a campaign for a Cornish Assembly has been running since July 2000, and there is strong opposition to the unelected South West Regional Assembly and the South West Regional Development Agency. The Cornish Assembly campaign has attracted the support of a 50,000 Cornish petition which was presented to 10 Downing Street on 12th December 2001. The campaign has the support of all five Cornish Lib Dem MPs, Mebyon Kernow and many others. They state that the SW regional assembly is undemocratic and unaccountable and believe Cornwall should be able to take decisions about local services in their own elected assembly answerable to local people.

[edit] External links

[edit] Regional Assembly links

[edit] Campaign group links

[edit] See also

Regional Assemblies in England

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