Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by Gareth Butler (RG 48)

  I have experience of the 1979 referendum in Wales and the 1997 referenda in Wales and Scotland as well as Devolution in various National regions across Europe, I made submissions to the Richard commission on devolution in Wales and have a response the White Paper "Better Government for Wales" from the Wales Office. I have also the experience of three levels of councils. You are welcome to have an opinion on English Devolution and the reasons for the failure in the North East of England which could be easily foreseen and analysed from experience here—not all of my expertise is however FOC.

  In response to your questions:

  The accountability question obviously needs a regional elected body in the first instance nominated by various councils with MPs and Lords also as members. accountability needs to take into account technology with the body meeting live on the internet.

  Devolution should be seen as an enabling process with subsidiary law created to facilitate lower levels of government to operate.

  The problem of having various services at various levels is that many operate in quangos whose areas are not synonymous. The functions that are democratically accountable have diminished and the decisions of those outside the local government sector are geographically remote. It would help if the decisions were in the first instance all made in one chamber for a region where some accountability could take place.

  The concept of the city state is not a new one but the boundaries of the cities need to reflect that the more wealthy from the city live in rural areas and dormitory towns outside the boundaries that have been drawn for most cities. The city is denuded therefore of both income and apparent talent in any survey that takes place.

  The regions that your office may see fit must take into account the wishes of the electorate. A case in point is Cornwall where the aspirations of this Historic Country are backed by the Charters of Europe but ignored by your department. A super south west region based in probably Bristol would make this far flung part of what is now England even more remote and less accountable. A special case should be granted here which would be an experiment in regional government in itself. There are functions that are better administrated by a devolved body of 1/2 m rather than one much larger and more remote.

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