Regions: Greens join the debate
By Andrew StringerTHE Green Party approach to all government is to take control from Westminster and Whitehall to the region, not to strip still more functions from elected local government.
By Andrew Stringer
THE Green Party approach to all government is to take control from Westminster and Whitehall to the region, not to strip still more functions from elected local government.
What the Green Party wants to see is a democratically elected regional assembly taking control of the functions of Government that affect the region. In addition, local councils should form voluntary confederations where they believe particular services can be run more effectively on a larger scale, as perhaps with recycling and waste disposal, minerals planning and higher education. This voluntary principle should also be applied to the police, fire and ambulance services.
There are three existing regional agencies exercising substantial governmental functions while lacking proper accountability - a democratic deficit. There is EEDA, which spends millions and directs economic strategy, GOEast, which comprises numerous Whitehall functions as they affect the region, and EERA, which consists of representatives from all the local councils, and plays a major role in land use planning.
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There are lots of other arms of government which operate across the region and lack any proper accountability to the public locally - the NHS, higher education, Courts, and the Highways Agency.
Now the drive towards regional police, NHS and courts has started, while county structure plans have been abolished, to be swallowed by a regional “Spatial Strategy” dominated by massive housing numbers imposed from the centre.
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Bio-regions, comprising a number of river catchments would shape our regions along greener lines with sustainability a primary aim. In future we should look to ensuring much of our own food and energy supplies, water, and sewage processing. These objectives point to a need to also bring the Environment Agency and Defra within the orbit of regional control.
The Green Party does believe a regional government should be introduced, but with a very different form to the pointless talking shop offered by the May 2002 White Paper, a form following the principle of decentralisation, and attractive enough to gain legitimacy from a positive referendum mandate.
We do not support forcing unitary authorities in place of the counties and districts unless they are formed voluntarily through the wishes of local people.
Andrew Stringer is Mid Suffolk district councillor for Mendlesham and is the first Green Party representative elected in the county