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Regional and Local Representatives

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

1. What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues involving elected representatives at regional and local level in decision making by Government Departments. (11073)

The Government are committed to not just promising localism, but practising it. I and other Ministers have regular meetings with local authority colleagues, across a range of issues and at regular intervals, about the decisions that we are thinking of making. That is what greater transparency and devolution are all about.

The Deputy Prime Minister talks a good talk about devolution and localism, but that is about all he does. In fact, he and the Business Secretary acquiesced in the abolition of the regional development agencies. I have here a letter from him in which he acquiesced in the abolition of Government offices—one of the few areas in which local representatives can have an input.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister now give an undertaking to the House that he will intervene on his colleagues in the Government to make sure that the new regional growth fund decisions have a proper input from elected councils and local authorities, rather than—

I am interested that the hon. Gentleman should think that the abolition of the regional development agencies and Government offices is somehow a blow against localism. Our view is that the Government offices had become a representation of Whitehall in the regions, rather than a voice for the regions in Whitehall. Equally, some RDAs do a good job, but he knows as well as I do that many local communities do not identify with regional development agencies. That is why we were right to say that it was up to local communities to come together with the private sector and others to create local enterprise partnerships, which are genuinely representative of what local communities want.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the abolition of outposts of central Government in the regions is good news so long as the decisions that they previously took devolve locally and do not drift to the centre? Does he also recognise the importance that business in the north-east attaches to the creation of a new enterprise partnership that is able to do some of the things that the regional development agency used to do?

Yes, of course I recognise that it is very important that the manner in which the local enterprise partnerships are now established—not least in the north-east, which has a strong regional identity—should be shaped around the needs of the communities involved. We look forward to receiving proposals from the north-east for the local enterprise partnerships in the north-east.

May I just say that localism is not just about bureaucratic structures? It is about giving local authorities greater control over our health service and people a say over how policing is conducted in our local communities. It is about looking long term at how local authorities can have a greater say over money as well. That is real localism, not bureaucratic localism.