Ruffley attacks transfer of powers to unelected East of England Regional Assembly

Tuesday, 24 May, 2005

David Ruffley MP warned this week that local councils, including St Edmundsbury and Mid Suffolk, were being undermined, with more and more of their authority being transferred to unelected regional assemblies. Despite the rejection of regional government by four fifths of the voting public in the North East referendum in November, John Prescott has increased the powers of the unelected regional assemblies, including the East of England Regional Assembly.

Signing a motion in Parliament calling for the abolition of the unelected regional assemblies, David said:

'John Prescott has shown contempt for the voice of local people. Month after month since November's referendum 'no' vote, more and more power is being transferred away from local communities in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket to expensive and distant, regional penpushers and politicians. What part of 'no' does John Prescott not understand?

'I fear that May could have seen the last elections for England's historic shire counties, like Suffolk. The counties are one of the oldest surviving tiers of self-government in Western Europe, predating the Doomsday Book. John Prescott's response to Conservatives standing up for the interests of local people in the shires is to abolish them completely, and transfer their powers to unelected regional assemblies.

'Only Conservatives are pushing for the regional state to be dismantled, restoring power to local communities, and making government once again accountable to the people.'

Since November, John Prescott has boosted regional powers through:

• Regional spatial strategies: binding, regional building targets imposed on local councils.

• Regional casino licences: regional assemblies will decide where controversial new casinos go.

• Regional traveller targets: regional quangos will force traveller camps on local communities.

• Regional tobacco offices: new taxpayer funded regional quangos will punish smokers.

• Regional waste strategies: able to impose incinerators and landfill sites from a regional level.

• Regional housing boards: new unelected boards are taking over the provision of social housing.

• Regional transport boards: undermining councils' powers over local transport.

• Regional fire control rooms: 999 calls will be answered from distant regional call centres.