Regional government warning

ACT now to save you counties – that's the message to residents of Suffolk and Essex as the deadline approaches to show support or opposition for a European-style regional parliament for the East of England.

ACT now to save you counties – that's the message to residents of Suffolk and Essex as the deadline approaches to show support or opposition for a European-style regional parliament for the East of England.

There's less than a week left for representations to be made to Whitehall whether a vote should be held on the ending of our traditional form of local government to be replaced by super regions and unitary councils.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has set a deadline of next Friday for people to say whether they back his plans for regional authorities as part of the Government's devolution agenda.

If he receives a positive response from the six counties that make-up the proposed East of England, he will order a referendum to give all voters a chance to have their day.


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If they vote `yes,' the county and district councils in Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire will be replaced by a strategic regional parliament and all-purpose district councils with responsibility for most current council services.

The new authority would stretch from the Thames to the Wash and from the North Sea to the Chilterns – but the Government has said it would not attempt to impose a regional body if there is a `no' vote.

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It's likely the first referendum will be held in the North East and Mr Prescott hopes a `yes' vote there will encourage other regions to support devolution.

This week, the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill became law, paving the way for referendum votes.

"The regions now have a real choice about their future," said Nick Raynsford, Minister of State in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. "With the Bill receiving Royal Assent, regions will be able to say if the time is right for them to elect a regional assembly.

"Choice is at the very heart of this Act, in keeping with our wider policy of devolution to the English regions. We believe local people are best placed to make the decisions that directly affect them."

n You can make your views known through the Internet on

www.local-regions.odpm.gov.uk/consult/regional-assembly/index.htm

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