IoD joins regions debate

IN principle, regionalisation should be a preferable way forward in terms of gaining central Government and European grants, and it should be easier to address regional and local issues within a regional setting.

By Paul Rolison

Essex branch chairman

Institute of Directors

IN principle, regionalisation should be a preferable way forward in terms of gaining central Government and European grants, and it should be easier to address regional and local issues within a regional setting.


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However, the IoD does not believe that regional government - in the form of elected regional assemblies - is a necessary or desirable way to achieve this aim. Feedback from our members clearly demonstrates that they want less government, not more.

Despite the North East's rejection of a Regional Assembly in November 2004, regionalisation, in the form of (unelected) Regional Assemblies and the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), is still very much with us. We welcome the greater regional focus that these bodies can bring, though the jury is still out on how effective the RDAs are in achieving their statutory objective of promoting economic development in their region.

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We also welcome the opportunity to build upon what works well within the region and to spread best practice, but we have to guard against change for the sake of change, in particular where existing agencies do a good job. We are concerned for example that EEDA's current review of business support services could lead to the disappearance of county-based Business Links.

This would be a mistake. Business is about people and relationships, and - to use my own county as an example - Essex needs a locally-based service employing people with local knowledge and business contacts to support the development of Essex businesses.

The RDAs must also recognise, and provide for, the diversity that exists within a region, especially one as large and as varied as ours.

What business is looking for is constructive assistance from consistent programmes delivered in understandable and accessible formats by reliable agencies at the appropriate level. Business does not want a “new wheel” every year, but considered and well-informed evolution in business support.

As a business organisation, we have no set views on the specific issues of the Government's desire for regional emergency services. If they operate better through larger organisations - though that is by no means a foregone conclusion - so be it. Though it is difficult to see how a regional police force, for example, will enhance community policing as is claimed.

There is no settled IoD view on the future of county and district councils but, generally speaking, we believe that the Government would do better to spend its time in dealing with the myriad other problems confronting the country than in unnecessary, and no doubt costly, local government upheaval.

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