David Thomas joins regions debate

THE changes that are being suggested and that will take place to our counties police service are, one could argue, a further example of the Government's march to establish regional structures by the back door.

By David Thomas

Labour

THE changes that are being suggested and that will take place to our counties police service are, one could argue, a further example of the Government's march to establish regional structures by the back door. This follows hot on the heals of the Government Office of the Eastern Regions' continuing insistence that local authorities deal with their neighbouring councils as 'sub-regional structure.' Having failed, in the North East, to win the argument democratically they will impose it anyway.

That at least is the theory being promulgated in some quarters and as theories go it is not a bad one. It has all the ingredients required to be almost believable, some fact, a lot of fiction and very little reality.


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The last major fundamental change to affect all of local government took place in 1974 with the abolition of the old county borough structure and the emergence of the current two-tier, district and county structure.

Since then, society and the expectations of the electorate have changed. This has been reflected in the emergence, throughout the 1990's, of a unitary, or single-tier local government structure where the function and role of the district and county councils are combined into one organisation.

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Those soothsayers and purveyors of political disaster need to look no further than Scotland and Wales to see the success story that regional governance can be. We can all sympathise with those people who have genuine concerns that any change has to be well thought out and practically implemented. Unfortunately, as the campaign in the North East showed, those that oppose improved local government representation tend to suggest it will create more politicians and greater cost, rather than the improved and more effective delivery of the service that everyone expects and deserves.

The reality of such a change is quite different. The introduction of regional governance will usher into being a truly representative two-tier structure, regional and unitary that should, if implemented correctly, reduce bureaucracy and streamline the operation of local government.

It will give local politicians a stronger voice in dealing with the concerns of the electorate at Westminster and a one tier organisational structure for them and the public to deal with.

David Thomas was Euro MP for Suffolk & Norfolk South West from 1994 until 1999, He is a Suffolk county councillor for Lowestoft's Normanston division and is also a Waveney district councillor and leader or its Labour group.

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