Devolution: A Decade On - Justice Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by The Campaign for the English Regions


  CFER was established as a campaigning organisation with a firm belief that the English regions would not realise their full potential without some form of devolved government. We believe that the present centralised nature of London based government limits effective policy development, implementation and civic engagement in a wide range of circumstances across the regions.

  Such limitations could be addressed by transferring powers from the centre to regional and local government as well as securing democratic oversight and enhanced accountability over central government institutions operating within the regions. In arguing this case CFER remains strongly supportive of Devolution to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.

  We recognise that the distinctive features of regional governance arrangements in the English regions and prevailing political realities will necessitate a different and evolutionary approach in order to close the huge democratic deficit that currently exists in England.


  The present political context presents an opportunity to resolve the unfinished business of the devolution project as a whole specifically the outstanding "English Question". There is an urgent need to address the constitutional and political imbalance that currently exists between England and the rest of the UK.In particular action is needed to clarify the relationship of England to the rest of the UK and to address the democratic deficit and institutional weaknesses of individual regions.

  The English Question needs a solution, which recognises England's complexity and economic, demographic and geographical significance within the UK, which avoids the potentially divisive and centralising proposal for an English "national" parliament.

  An English Parliament would create an unbalanced constitutional settlement—a problem first recognised by William Gladstone when considering the implications of Irish Home Rule in the 1880s. We see present governance arrangements for the English regions as being overwhelmingly dominated by the nexus of power and decision making based in the Capital. This centralisation means it is difficult for Whitehall to devise and implement policies tailored to local needs and for the regions and the local to influence the centre. We believe an English Parliament would not resolve but merely replicate this problem in a different form. In our view devolution in England should be based upon the building blocks of the regions.

  CFER believes that the solution to the English Question lies in empowering the English Regions and their local communities by making existing administrative decentralisation more directly accountable and understandable to the citizens it serves and within regions more local. Decisions about devolution should be taken in the round as part of a wider move to modernise the political system. The piecemeal approach to parliamentary reform, devolution, regionalisation and local government has resulted in a patchwork of arrangements, which is neither equitable, understable, effective or sustainable.

  In adopting this solution there would need to be machinery in place to periodically give a collective English view(s). Where there are cross cutting UK or England-wide matters these could be resolved by bringing the nine regions together (including London) to operate as an English partnership expressing a single voice where appropriate. In relation to UK matters they could meet together in a "Council of the Isles" type structure, which would include the Devolved Nations and the English regions. It could establish memorandums of agreement between the devolved nations and regions and monitor and review cross border UK-wide policy. This might include for example strategic aspects of planning, transport, economic development, inward investment, international trade and environmental concerns.

  We are not advocating a Federal structure, rather a Unitary State model in which macro economic policy, defence, international relations, social security etc. remained the responsibility of central government whilst domestic affairs would be delivered, to varying degrees, by devolved arrangements to the Nations and regions based upon the specific political and economic realities of each part of the UK.

  In setting out our approach we recognise that other alternatives have been promoted to address the "English Question". For example, some have advocated the adoption of city or other sub regions as the building blocks for devolved government working alongside local government. We do not see these approaches as mutually exclusive but rather both are integral parts of an emerging multi-level form of governance.

  From a Whitehall managerial and logistical perspective it is difficult to deal with more than eight or nine points of contact with the centre. The base for such contacts is now firmly established through Government Offices for the Regions, which currently incorporate around 10 Government departments. There are certain strategic issues which geographically and in terms of economies of scale and expertise demand a regional approach. In many policy areas however, such strategies are best delivered at a sub-regional and/or local level with the regional tier addressing strategic cross cutting issues and providing an overall framework and priorities within which regional strategies can nest.

  Devolution as a whole has evolved across the UK in an asymmetric fashion, reflecting national identities and political realities at the time of change. We would argue in relation to the position of the English regions that the present arrangements are unbalanced across the UK as a whole and if this is not addressed, then, in the long run the situation is likely to prove politically unstable.

  One key problem in explaining this dilemma has been the sheer diversity of England and the absence of a strong English identity and consensus that was reflected in political pressures of a kind which re-ignited the demand for devolution and separation in Scotland and Wales in the 1960s.

  In England political and geographical identity is expressed more powerfully at multiple levels in terms of localities, rural communities, towns, cities and regions. There is no consistent pattern of identity(s) across England rather there are overlapping levels of individual and collective awareness. Some regions have stronger regional identities than others (Yorkshire and Humber and the North East) but there are also strong identities at other levels.

  Some in central Government have cited the experience of London government as the way forward with an elected Mayor and Assembly and a unitary tier of local government. However we are not sanguine about the transferability of this sort of regional or city region model of elected government to elsewhere in England. It is important to recognise that London is a contiguous urban area without having to deal with complex urban-rural relationships. Moreover, London is almost unique across England in having two clear and distinctive sets of identity with a shared commitment as Londoners and equally strong identities associated with London Boroughs and neighbourhood communities. Across many of the proposed city regions, such a duality is not present making it difficult for local politicians to forge a political community which would recognise common interests and geographical identity. Moreover some commentators have failed to recognise the unique political position of the London Mayor representing six million people, the largest political constituency in Western Europe, located at the heart of an international city, geographically proximate to the corridors of power and with substantial infrastructure and investment opportunities. It is difficult to envisage how this successful, high profile, Mayoral role could be easily replicated elsewhere in England. Rather we take the view that to achieve the same level of political clout and ability to mobilise investment opportunities on a similar scale would require operating at the higher geographical scale of the region. Even then it would be difficult to match the performance of the London Mayoral system given its unique position.

  The arguments for devolution however, are not based solely on whether or not there is a sense of national, regional or civic identity. There are also important questions surrounding the geographical scale at which the strategic policy formulation and implementation should take place. In recent decades, for example, there have been powerful forces of decentralisation at play in both the public and private realms. Increasingly, government departments and their agencies have decentralised activities and management responsibilities to the regions either through the Government Offices for the Regions or via non-departmental public bodies and other agencies. Central government has also experimented with restoring some limited powers and freedoms and flexibilities to local government and the Lyons Review has raised the possibilities at some stage of enhancing local taxation.

  The regional governance arrangements established and developed since 1997 (Government Offices, Regional Development Agencies and Regional Assemblies) have seen a strengthening and expansion of their roles largely based on the decentralisation of powers and responsibilities from the centre not sucked up from local government. However, while local authorities and stakeholders have been given a seat at the table on some of these structures it remains the case that central government is still in the driving seat and that indirectly nominated bodies are not the most transparent and accountable. Moreover, significant areas of public expenditure at regional level reside outside the ambit of the Government Office and RDA in policy areas such as Health and via non-departmental public bodies.

  Further, political, business and community leaders in the English regions are becoming increasingly aware of the relative advantages available to the devolved nations in terms of their ability to pass primary and secondary legislation, the existence of annual block budgets, access to a single unified civil service, Secretaries of State in the Cabinet, Regional Development Agency budgets of two to three times the size of their English equivalents, higher levels of per capita public expenditure and a diluted English voice in EU negotiations particularly surrounding regional matters. These comparisons are increasingly being made against the recognition that the populations of typical English regions such as the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber, are of a similar size to that of Scotland (5 million) and larger than that of Wales (3.5 million).

  We recognise of course, that there are major and distinctive economic, social, and environmental problems, which necessitate a devolved approach and additional public expenditure and further that there exists a sense of nationhood not present to the same extent in England. Yet it could be argued that the present balance of powers, responsibilities and financial benefits in Scotland and Wales are disproportionate in comparison with the position of the English regions representing in total some 85% of the UK's population.

  CFER supports Devolution and therefore would not wish to see any retreat from the present arrangements in order to secure greater equity for the English regions even if this were politically possible. Rather it is our contention steps should be taken to enhance the political voice and democratic accountability of the English regions, which would serve to strengthen their relative position and the Devolution project as a whole. We believe our suggested approach would achieve these objectives without the necessity of fundamental changes in current political or administrative arrangements.

  In the following sections we set out what we believe to be a pragmatic and politically robust model for the development of the English Regions and which we believe could be adapted over the course of time in response to a greater demand for Devolution. In assuming the potential of this model as a vehicle to address the "English Question" we have devised a number of criteria, which are set out below. The application of these criteria to our proposal is set out in the conclusion.


  Genuine devolution must demonstrate that it is across the board and not simply where it is politically expedient to do so. CFER suggests that a number of essential criteria must be applied to determine the basis of genuine devolution. In response to recent developments, including the 2006 White Paper and the Sustainable Communities agenda, we pose a number of questions designed to shape and test the basis of a devolution settlement for England:

1.  How is accountability built into any new forms of Governance?

2.  Is there greater co-ordination and capacity to devise policy and secure its implementation?

3.  Does any specific proposal bring government closer to the people?

4.  Will there be a reduction in the quango state and enhanced accountability and control?

5.  Will it enhance opportunities for economic regeneration, civic renewal and more active political engagement?


  The present regional governance arrangements in England have evolved gradually over the past decade reinforced by various central government measures. There have been question marks over the complexity, transparency, accountability and effectiveness of regional governance arrangements, which has been the subject of a number of official reviews and consultancy studies.

  The following section summarises some of the main conclusions of the various regional reviews, considers outstanding issues which need to be addressed and summarises one emerging model of effective policy making and implementation which at the same time offers a potential vehicle for more democratic regional governance.

  In addressing the questions we can draw on the findings of various recent studies and enquiries.


    —  The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee (2007) emphasises the continuing importance of the regional level in public policy together with the importance of working alongside activities at sub-regional and local levels.

    The regional dimension is seen as particularly significant "in relation to issues such as environment, resilience and strategic planning for housing, industry and transport".

    —  In seeking to achieve improved effectiveness and credibility of the regional governance framework (GO, RDA, RA) the House of Commons report argues that there needs to be greater local accountability and more dialogue with the centre.

    —  The Ove Arup Evaluation of the Role and Impact of Regional Assemblies for CLG (2006) concludes: "In general, the recent round of regional plan making can be seen as a success. In particular the extent of the evidence base is much better... It is also clear that regional planning and transport is now a much more central policy function... The new round of RSS takes a pragmatic and functional approach to sub-regional planning breaking away from the old county based sub-regions to functional sub-areas and city regions. These sub areas respond better to the concept of city regions as economic drivers and allow the RSS to include more responsive spatial drivers."

    —  In terms of the co-ordination, integration and alignment of other regional strategies (for which there are over 20) the Regional Assemblies and their partners have made considerable progress in recent years in establishing strategic priorities for their regions which have provided a framework within which strategies can be prepared, aligned, co-ordinated and implemented. The Warwick University study for the English Regions Network: Integration of Regional Strategies (2005) found that this involved use of Sustainable Development Frameworks or more frequently Integrated Regional Strategies or Frameworks. This has entailed a variety of approaches.

    —  Apart from a smaller number of core strategies (eg RES, RSS RTS), which have been integrated through the Treasury mechanisms, the majority of regional strategies have been dealt with by central government on an individual case-by-case departmental basis. They have not been viewed in Whitehall as part of a group of co-ordinated strategies brought together at regional level despite the activities of Regional Assemblies in this regard.

    —  In relation to the core strategies it is generally acknowledged that considerable progress has been made in securing more effective co-ordination and integration in recent years with further encouragement provided by the Regional Funding Allocation Process.

    —  The National Audit Office Independent Performance Assessment of Advantage West Midlands 2007, for example, comments that: "AWM has worked proactively with both the Government Office West Midlands and the West Midlands Regional Assembly on the West Midlands RSS... The RSS and current RES are very strongly aligned... there is a clear understanding of the priorities flowing from both documents ...."

    —  Across all regions Ove Arup come to similar conclusions. "The RFA task set was a challenging one for the regions. It tested the resolve of regional partners to work together... the process also resulted in greater understanding of the importance of a robust evidence base to underpin investment strategies. In most regions a productive dialogue, joint working and a greater consensus was forged between senior decision makers in the region on shared regional investment priorities. The RFA process enhanced integrated working between senior housing, transport, economic development and spatial planning professionals with evidence in most regions of a more integrated strategy for main regional investment priorities...."

So much done. So much left to do

  A number of regions are currently considering building on what's gone before by bringing together in a more formal partnership the key regional players. This will extend the strategic planning and implementation agenda beyond the present RFA boundaries (housing, economic development and planning) to encompass a wider range of strategies and policy areas. In the case of the East of England and East Midlands, Policy Boards involving leading politicians and Chairs of key organisations have been established to oversee determination of strategic priorities and co-ordination and alignment of strategies. This has been paralleled by Delivery Boards involving Chief Executives addressing the planning programming and co-ordination of funding regimes and implementation through the relevant agencies at regional, sub-regional and local levels.

  In all of this less attention has been paid to the pivotal role of Government Offices. Through their links to the Centre, their own regional activities and their remit following the recent Government Office Review. They are the key to Government Department activities in the regions as well as bringing to the table the non departmental public bodies and agencies which have a significant regional impact. The success of the English regions in the future depends on a more co-ordinated and transparent role for them with other key regional agencies.


  While the above discussion suggests considerable progress has been made in developing more effective regional working, much remains to be done. There needs to be, for example:

    —  A regional institution/partnership structure which is capable of more effectively representing the voices of the region in their many and diverse forms whilst at the same time working with democratic representatives and their institutions.

    —  Further development of regional working across a wider range of partners, strategies and programmes (including central government) in a way, which provides for a greater degree of democratic accountability without creating additional layers of bureaucracy, delays and expense. In particular further engagement of economic, social and environmental partners in the process of regional working and decision-making.

    —  A clear vision for the future development of the region which incorporates the relevant strategies, funding regimes and partners and sets clear priorities; seeks their co-ordination and alignment; maximises public/private sector investment and leverage.

    —  The achievement of "value for money" in regional activities by setting clear strategic outcomes for the region involving all the key institutions with the aim of contributing to both central government and regional objectives.

    —  The facilitation of cross cutting regional themes such as Localisation, Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

    —  Work towards an agreed regional performance management framework covering all the relevant strategies and linked where appropriate to sub-regional strategies, LSPs etc.

    —  Development of shared research, intelligence and data to provide a consistent evidence base including performance indicators for application across strategies and funding regimes.

    —  Utilisation of statutory RSS and other implementation plans to co-ordinate investment phasing, timing and roles and responsibilities of key agencies; development of implementation "task" groups including use of implementation delivery chains.

    —  Certainty that through regular dialogues implementation plans developed by sub-regional partnerships (including city regions) and LSPs/LAAs are consistent with those being developed at the regional level.

  There also still remains a related set of questions that need to be addressed about the gap that exists between the electorate and machinery of Government in the Regions and what devolved Government is doing for other parts of the Union.

  For most people in England there is little understanding or ownership of the plethora of unaccountable quangos, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies, which now constitute Regional Government in England.


  Over the past decade the government has consistently taken the view that within the parameters set by the three key regional institutions that regions should be allowed to develop their own regional governance arrangements. The evidence reviewed earlier suggests that in many respects the regions are gradually addressing the "Remaining Challenges" listed above.

  Drawing on existing experiences and debates taking place in the regions it is possible to sketch out an approach, which addresses many of the current policy concerns about regional governance and which is also sufficiently robust to accommodate various forms of enhanced democratic accountability.


  CFER still believes that the ultimate solution to the governance issue (and the issue of evening out growth) is directly elected regional government able to take a strong, strategic steer in matter pertinent to their region. In the interim CFER would welcome moves to establishment of a Regional Policy or Partnership Board to address the challenges identified.

  Its purpose would be to provide strategic leadership providing a framework for public and private investment and addressing the key economic, social and environmental challenges. Such a body would include the leaders of the key regional institutions alongside democratically elected representatives. It could be an adjunct to an existing Regional Assembly or be an independent regional partnership made up of the key regional institutions.

  Both models could accommodate additional democratic representatives from the EU, House of Commons and/or House of Lords, and local authorities. Key stakeholders groups such as business and the voluntary sector would also be part of the decision-making framework reflecting the continuing important contribution they have made to the work of Regional Assemblies.

  Such a Board would establish a clear vision for the region and provide a framework within which all the strategies and funding regimes would nest. It would set the strategic framework for the Region ensuring alignment of RSS, RES but also broadening to cover a wider range of strategies. It would prioritise investment and resource allocation to achieve the shared vision utilising a single strategic performance management framework.

   The Partnership Board (Appendix) would comprise, by way of example, Assembly Chair/Vice Chairs and the Chair/Chief Executive of the key regional agencies such as the RDA, Strategic Health Authority and the Learning and Skills Council. It would also include representatives of the private and voluntary sectors.

  Finally, and perhaps most crucially, in order to deliver mutually supportive regional and sub-regional plans, the geographical dimension of place would be secured through appropriate representation drawn from each city region and LAA "locality".

  There would also be a Delivery Board of Chief Executives of relevant agencies and local authorities. Specific policy themes would be developed and delivered via Task Groups or Policy Partnerships (eg Planning, Transport, Housing, Climate Change, Community Cohesion and Health) with direct representation from all relevant strategic partners,

  Delivery Board members would be expected to represent the collective issues and interests of the members of their respective partnerships/agencies but also operating within the context of the Regional Partnership Board's vision and priorities. The Government Office would play a key-facilitating role in this regard and in monitoring the contribution of Government Departments and agencies in the implementation phase.

  To maximise effectiveness, the GO Regional Director would attend meetings of the Regional Partnership Board in order to strengthen the regional/national lines of transmission and ensure the necessary input of Departments and agencies to regional priorities. The GO itself would discuss its own Business Plan and priorities alongside the other key institutions on the Partnership Board. In this way the GO could most effectively deliver the targets set for it in the Government Office Review.


  To further strengthen scrutiny and accountability in the English Regions it is suggested that steps are taken to increase the engagement of Parliament in English regional affairs.

  Concern is expressed in many quarters about the lack of clout of the English Regions which is linked to a lack of understanding and interest regional issues by Whitehall and Westminster. In the case of MPs they understandably focus on local constituency matters and invariably national issues with little attention to regional matters. From a Parliamentary perspective what happens at a regional level, and the decisions that are taken there, receive relatively little attention or scrutiny. When, infrequently, MPs do get involved in a regional issue it tends to be after a decision has been made and they are leading or participating in a local reaction to it.

  Government recognises that at it is at the Regional level that some of the most crucial issues need to be addressed—whether it be transport, environment, productivity or skills. To this CFER would add decisions about the future of sub regional working and local government, which need to be taken on a coordinated rather than ad hoc basis.

  Historically an English Grand Committee has addressed regional issues in Parliament. However, it has not had the necessary status and clout and focus to provide an effective scrutiny of the government's activities in the regions. Meeting only periodically, it has never provided regular and systematic assessments of regional affairs between and within the regions. So, in addition to what we have proposed there needs to be a more formal level of parliamentary scrutiny and involvement in regional affairs. This could be provided through a new House of Commons Select Committee for the Regions and/or Regional members of a reformed Second Chamber having dual Parliamentary and Regional leadership roles.


  A HOC Select Committee for the English Regions with a remit to oversee their relationship to other parts of the Union, the preparation, content and implementation of regional strategies and funding programmes, alongside monitoring relationships between Government departments (and their agencies) and the regions. It would have the power to call to account Government departments, regional (GO, RDA, RA) and local institutions in relation to the co-ordination and delivery of regional, sub-regional, city region and related local strategies (viz LSPs). Attention would focus as much on joined up approaches within Whitehall as in the regions. There would be a concern with "value for money" and the three "Es" in the development and implementation of regional policies and programmes.

  The Committee would call evidence from across Whitehall but also involve those at regional and local levels concerned with delivery. It would consider the work of individual regions but also cross cutting themes. Under our proposals, MPs would have the opportunity to participate in the proposed Regional Policy Boards and also in the work of the Select Committee thereby providing a clear role for Parliament in scrutinising the executive.


  Directly elected Regional members of a Reformed House of Lords could be constituted as a Regional Board or Council to oversee all Regional Working and thereby provide a directly accountable executive with similar powers and responsibilities to a Select Committee. This approach would provide each region with real direct democratic accountability, members who had a genuine regional remit and identity.


  This paper set out a number of essential criteria which we argue need to be applied to determine the basis of genuine devolution. CFER's preferred solution to the dilemma of the "democratic deficit" in the English regions would be through the establishment of powerful directly elected regional assemblies. However, in the light of the North East Referendum result and present political realities, we are proposing a pragmatic and robust model. The approach is capable of being adapted to the particular circumstances of each region and would not involve any legislative changes or entail major restructuring of regional and local institutions and administrative arrangements. The approach would build on what has or is being put in place in place. From a democratic perspective it would provide a stepping-stone to further changes strengthening regional democratic accountability.

  Based on our Devolutionary criteria we would assess the model as follows:

1.  Accountability built into new forms of government

  The model would bring to the table all the key public institutions responsible for regionally relevant public expenditure either directly through membership of the Policy Board or indirectly via the Government Office.

  Through the participation of local government via the Regional Assembly and the representation of MPs and MEPs there would be strong democratic participation. If a regional element were introduced into the reform of the House of Lords, a directly elected element would be possible.

  Signing up to, and participating in, the preparation of a regional vision and its implementation would tie all parties into a common commitment to delivery of the region's agenda. Government departments and agencies would be engaged and monitored via the direct involvement of the Government Office and the Scrutiny Role of the Treasury Select Committee for the Regions. Public, private and voluntary sector stakeholders would participate in the processes via the Regional Assembly.

2.  Greater co-ordination and capacity to devise policy and secure its implementation

  The participation of all the key public sector institutions would make possible the co-ordination and alignment of all relevant regional strategies (we estimate there are around 20) and funding regimes through the Regional Delivery Board and would make possible the preparation of regional/sub-regional delivery plans. This would include as important building blocks the Regional Economic Strategy and the Regional Spatial Strategy Implementation Plan—a statutory document. These programmes could either be delivered directly by the agencies concerned or via commissioning.

  Such a structure would facilitate the planning of research data collection and its pooling, and the development of a shared regional performance management system. In many policy areas it would be possible for the first time to bring together programmes and delivery bodies in devising and implementing specific policy themes and plans. Financial and project management would be enhanced by a shared agenda and collaborative working through Task Groups. The involvement of elected representatives (directly and via a Select Committee) would strengthen public scrutiny and the attainment of value for money.

3.  Bringing government closer to the people

  By definition it is difficult to engage citizens in strategic decision making at this level. However, the active participation of elected politicians from the region at both local and national levels would serve to enhance democratic engagement. The introduction of a regional element in a revised House of Lords would provide a means of introducing politicians with a direct electoral mandate. Members of the European Parliament could also potentially fill such a role.

  By bringing all key regionally relevant public expenditure decisions together under the Regional Policy Board, the present hidden and complex decision making apparatus would become clearer, simpler to understand, easier to explain to the general public and attract greater attention from the media.

  The Policy Board could adopt a proactive stance by, for example, establishing or working with existing Citizens' Panels involving the Youth Parliament and other similar participative bodies across the region. It could establish concordats or partnerships with key institutions such as the voluntary sector etc. establishing modus operandi surrounding policy development and consultation. With enhanced powers at regional level, politicians would be more willing to engage in regional affairs, generate debate and involve the media who in turn would have a greater incentive to provide coverage.

4.  Reduction in the Quango State and Enhanced accountability and control

  Following the recent Review of the role of Government Offices, the GOs are now charged with the responsibility of engaging NDPBs and other government agencies in actively contributing to the delivery of regional priorities. In the past, Quangos have not always regarded their engagement in the preparation and delivery of regional strategies as of the highest priority and it has proved difficult for Regional Directors to exercise influence on this matter via the relevant Government Departments and/or NDPB Boards.

  If such Government agencies were formally part of the processes of the Regional Policy and Delivery Boards it would prove much more difficult to avoid participation in the determination of regional priorities and to renege on publicly made commitments given as part of a shared regional vision and delivery plan(s) process.

  Moreover by engaging the Government Office directly in the Regional Policy Board processes the GO could engage in an annual consultation exercise about the content of its own business and delivery plans. While the ultimate decisions on individual programmes would rest with Government departments, the regional aspects of their activities including their regional strategies could be planned alongside those of other regional partners.

5.  Enhanced opportunities for sustainable development regeneration, civic renewal and more active political engagement

  By considering sustainable development issues (economic, social and environmental) under a single agreed regional vision and set of objectives, there would be an opportunity to develop a common understanding of regional problems and opportunities and to mobilise resources, maximising public/private investment and derive economies of scale and scope. Emerging policy issues such as climate change could be tackled in a cross cutting manner. Closer collaborative working could enhance the leadership role of the RDAs through their Regional Economic Strategies across a wider range of policy areas and by influencing expenditure decisions and delivery plans of a greater number of agencies. More comprehensive co-ordination of public expenditure allied with publicly agreed implementation plans would provide greater certainty for the private sector.

  By providing a single political and executive focus for addressing regional strategic issues, it would be much easier to communicate and engage with the general public on the regional agenda. Specific forums could be established to secure the views of citizens and their active participation in tackling key issues such as urban renewal, climate change, social exclusion, etc. A regional body with the necessary expertise and resources could foster a greater emphasis on localisation and new forms of collective action, for example, promotion of networks of social enterprises, addressing region-wide economic, social, environmental or rural issues, the establishment of regional unit trusts or bonds to raise local capital to bridge funding gaps in the development of strategic regional infrastructure.

  In conclusion we believe much progress has been made in the past 10 years through partnership working to ensure that regional governance arrangements are working successfully in the English regions. The research evidence reviewed in this paper suggests much progress has been made whilst there remain questions surrounding transparency, accountability, co-ordination and democratic engagement.

  Given present political realities, we believe the time is right to move forward building on existing structures but strengthening democratic accountability and policy co-ordination and delivery. In our view the suggested model meets current political and technical requirements with minimum disruption or the need for legislative changes. It provides a route for further strengthening of democratic engagement.

Evidence Produce on behalf of CFER by

Professor John Mawson, Director of the Local Government Centre, University of Warwick Business School

Phil Davis, Chair

Jane Thomas, Vice Chair

Mary Southcott, Vice Chair

George Morran, Secretary

May 2007


previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 24 May 2009