Harwich MP joins regions debate
By Douglas Carswell MPConservativeASK a dozen readers of the East Anglian Daily Times “where do you come from?” and you are likely to get 12 different answers.
By Douglas Carswell MP
ASK a dozen readers of the East Anglian Daily Times “where do you come from?” and you are likely to get 12 different answers. Essex perhaps, or Colchester or Clacton, or maybe even East Anglia. But the one reply that you can guarantee you would not get would be the Eastern Region of England. Almost no one identifies with the so-called Eastern Region of England because unlike our counties and towns that evolved their identities over two millennia, it is a recent artificial invention.
Not only do people not identify with regional government, I have yet to find a single constituent demanding it. Despite this, key decisions that affect our lives, such as planning and housing, are no longer taken by those we elect, but by the tier of so-called regional government. Why?
Regional government is being gradually foisted upon us to suit the political elite in Whitehall, according to boundaries drafted in Brussels. Giving more power to unelected and unaccountable regional government institutions suits the political class, since it ensures that they can impose their agenda on us without having to go the inconvenience of having meaningful elections. It suits the European Union, too, which is determined to fragment our country into smaller entities given their orders directly from Brussels.
Following the referendum in the North East, where voters rejected regional government overwhelmingly, the Government is now seeking to create regional government by stealth. They have established little-noticed regional government institutions in which various local functionaries have been given a vested interest. The Government has begun to regionalise local public services - such as policing, the fire and ambulance services - in the belief that regional public services will require regional institutions to oversee them.
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I am not opposed to regional government because it is Labour Party policy, but because it is fundamentally wrong. Public services organised at a regional level will be less locally accountable to local people, and already we can see how regionalisation means having our local NHS Primary Care Trusts and police divisions amalgamated into larger, more remote units.
Regionalisation is also profoundly anti-democratic. What is the point in voting in local elections if the people that you elect are no longer able to make decisions, but have to defer to remote regional authorities?
The alternative to regionalisation is the Cameron Conservatives' new localism. Local government - the bedrock of which is county councils - must be made more independent from Whitehall. Crucially, they must be made more financially independent. Once self-financing, local government could become self-defining.
There is no reason why the man in Whitehall should decide if you have a unitary authority, nor the bureaucrats in Brussels define the shape of local government for you. Once local government was self-financing, it could be left of local people to decide the shape of their own local government in their own town halls.
Douglas Carswell has been Conservative MP for Harwich since May 2005.