Regions: Rudkin joins the debate
By Bryony RudkinREGIONAL Government appeared to be dead and buried after the referendum in the North East said a defining “no” to what was perceived as the imposition of another tier of government in the area most outsiders would have said was the region with the most sense of identity - a recognisable regional accent at least.
By Bryony Rudkin
REGIONAL Government appeared to be dead and buried after the referendum in the North East said a defining “no” to what was perceived as the imposition of another tier of government in the area most outsiders would have said was the region with the most sense of identity - a recognisable regional accent at least.
Here in the East of England outward appearance would seem to suggest no hint of regional unity - certainly no accent connects the journey between Potter's Bar and Cromer - and a collective sigh of relief appeared to breathe as the regional agenda faded away. But has it?
We are now faced with a wider discussion about the very way in which we are governed and we have moved on in many ways since the re-organisation of local government in the '90s. For instance, there are more easily recognisable economic communities who see advantage in casting off the existing structures of government.
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A good example of this would be the towns surrounding Gatwick Airport which sit on the borders of three local authorities and two counties, each with different parties in political control. This has not stopped them from exploring the potential future advantage of unitary government which would change the political landscape perhaps, but mean real efficiencies and economic gain for their communities. We do not have to look too hard at the map of the six counties of the East of England to see similar opportunities.
We must also be realistic and not sentimental about change. Technology means that the reality of shared services such as the police, ambulance and fire and rescue means better services not riskier ones. When it comes to financial matters we're all on the look out for the best deal whether that's for our mortgage or mobile phone and the same must apply to government - a simpler, unified system of government which can get the best deal for the taxes we pay has got to make economic sense.
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We cannot afford to be sentimental about boundaries set by the Victorians if we want to make real change in the 21st century - we can save our emotions for football rivalry and we can continue to celebrate the most parochial of local traditions in our communities. When it comes to governance and service delivery some harder, sharper thinking is required.
Times change. It is time now for real - exciting - debate about how we are governed and from where.
Bryony Rudkin is a Suffolk county councillor for Ipswich's Chantry division and was the authority's leader between 2003 and 2005.