Memorandum by the Commission on Devolution
A BASIS FOR A REGIONAL STRUCTURE FOR SOUTH
AND EAST ENGLAND
The Commission's proposals are based on the
assumption that a viable regional structure must provide three
fundamental requirements: a sense of identity, effective public
accountability and the ability to deliver the services for which
it is responsible.
The Commission believes that it is reflecting
a general consensus that the present regional structure in East,
South East and South West England does not meet these requirements
and hence is unsatisfactory for current responsibilities and cannot
be a basis for further devolution of central government powers.
The Commission argues that the human and urban
geography of England does not allow for the imposition of single-form
regional structure. Viable regional devolution will require variable
structures to match differing geographic and economic realities.
This submission refers specifically to East
and South England but it might well be relevant to other areas
outside the ambit of the major provincial city regions.
1. The Commission accepts the strength of
the case presented by the Core Cities/City Regions for regional
structures that reflect the realities of these regional centres.
2. However Core City based regions cannot
provide a system for all of England, as they would not include
very significant areas of the country and populations, principally
the South and East.
3. The great strength of Core Cities is
that they are the focus of their respective functional regions.
4. A functional region will have one or
more major urban centres that act as the effective regional capital.
These regional capitals will provide a range of services for the
wider region and not just their urban population. The national
capital cannot practically provide these services because of distance
(geographic and or cultural). The provision of these services
will require regional capitals to be transportation centres.
5. Regional capitals will have, or aim to
have, one or more facilities of national importance to reinforce
their national standing.
6. Such functional regions normally cannot
exist or develop in competition with a national capital. London
in addition to its international and national roles also provides
regional services. London's regional influence is psychological
and practical reflecting the ability to make a return visit to
the capital within a day. This London influenced South-East is
a much wider area than the official SE region.
7. The South and East of England (excluding
London) has none of the characteristics which would enable the
development of functional regions:
Its population and leaderships
have very little sense of common identity.
It has no regional centre of
economic or political strength.
It has no geographic or transport
centre other than London.
Its common interests are weak
and not generally apparent.
There is little belief that
public participation and quality of decision-making would be enhanced
by having a regional authority.
8. Hence the basis for regional authorities
in the South and East of England, must be markedly different from
that of city region influenced areas of the country.
9. Despite the evidence that full regional
centres cannot develop within the South and East, there are recognised,
successful sub-regional centres exemplified by Brighton/Crawley;
Southampton/Portsmouth; Bournemouth/Poole; Reading/ Oxford; Milton
Keynes; Cambridge; Norwich.
10. These urban centres provide services
for functional sub-regions. These functional sub-regions (FSRs)
are substantially larger than travel-to-work areas and their economic
drivers are shopping, leisure and commercial services as much
as employment. The circulations of local newspapers and broadcasting
areas for local TV and radio are important indicators of the extent
of a functional sub-region.
11. FSRs could be the basis for regional
authorities in the South and East of England. As compared with
the existing regions FSRs would have the advantages of:
Internal Public recognition
and coherencethey are actually areas in which people live
and work and hence can relate to;
on places that have national and, in some cases international,
recognition and profile.
12. There is a crucial distinction to be
made between the sub-regional areas, which can potentially command
public recognition and loyalty, and the areas suitable for specific
economic development projects. Regional authorities based on functional-sub
regions would certainly need to cooperate on a project-by-project
basis and agree to work to strategies covering more than one authority.
The Thames Valley grouping of local authorities provides a working
example of co-operation for specific objectives.