Regional assemblies

This week I nearly cheered when I heard that the Government plans to abolish the unpopular, unelected and unaccountable regional assemblies.

For a fleeting second I thought that the Government might finally have come round to a decision that I and my Party have long-advocated.

I have repeatedly voiced my objections to an unelected and unaccountable body taking decisions over vital issues such as housing numbers or roads in West Sussex.

But of course there was a catch. Rather than abolishing the regional assemblies and returning their vast powers over planning and transport to local authorities where they belong, the Government plans to transfer them to regional development agencies, another unelected and unaccountable quango.

As John Prescott discovered in 2004, when the people delivered their judgement on his plans for a regional assembly in the North East, there has never been a desire for regional government or a popular mandate for it.

Why would there be when England has a strong system of local government and identity based on our historic counties and boroughs?

Yet the Government ignored the voice of the people and pressed ahead with assemblies by the back door.

So, as regional assemblies are phased out from 2010 onwards, planning will now be the responsibility of the South East England Development Agency, which is run out of Guildford by a board of 15 unelected Government appointees.

This week's announcement once again shows that there is a growing divide in politics. On the one hand there are those like Gordon Brown who cling to the idea of rule by central government dictat and quango.

On the other there are those, like me, who believe in returning power and control to individuals and communities.

The best decisions are those that are made closest to, and in dialogue with, the people and communities they affect. West Sussex PCT please take note.

Michelle Taylor