Planning powers to unelected quango

July 18, 2007 9:29 AM

Lib Dems in Cambridge have described plans to replace the East of England Regional Assembly with an unelected quango as an 'extraordinary power grab'.

Local Government Minister John Healey announced yesterday that England's regional assemblies, which are currently made up of councillors, will be phased out by 2010 and replaced by regional development agencies.

Leader of Cambridge City Council, Ian Nimmo-Smith, commented:

Ian Nimmo-Smith

Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith

"Although the regional assemblies were not as democratic as we would like, they did have an element of accountability through the substantial number of elected councillors who served on them. There are still tasks which need to be done democratically at the regional level and as Liberal Democrats we have always argued for a directly elected assembly, and ensured that our share of the committees in the East of England Regional Assembly were allocated on a democratic basis by elections across all the Liberal Democrat councillors in the region.

"The plans to hand regional planning powers to the East of England Development Agency are shocking. It is a secretive and unaccountable body largely populated through Labour and Tory patronage. It is struggling to find a replacement Chief Executive and is certainly the very last body that should have any planning powers, especially in relation to Green Belt reviews, allocations of 100,000s of additional housing and gigantic greenhouse gas emitters like an enlarged Stansted.

"There is a great deal of irony in the Tories fighting to defend institutions that they have tried to kill off, and which they have extensively manipulated as far as the East of England Regional Assembly is concerned. I will study with interest the response of local Labour councillors."

Cambridge MP David Howarth added:

"The proposal to axe regional assemblies and hand crucial planning power to the East of England Development Agency is simply extraordinary. Regional development agencies are unelected and unaccountable and EEDA has a very bad track record in terms of handling public money.

David Howarth MP in the House of Commons

David Howarth MP

"In the Commons, regional select committees which will take on some of EERA's roles will all have Labour majorities, even in regions in which Labour is a small minority. This is a centralising power grab in the worst traditions of old Labour. Brown is showing his true colours."

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