Q: What about the claims made for creating economic growth?
A:Peter Robinson (of the Institute of Public Policy Research, a New Lab leaning think tank, not the MP) was scathing over the RDAs' claims that given more money, they could raise UK economic growth by 1% (Experience shows that even a quarter of a percent would be ambitious)1.
Q:Are the RDAs geared up to produce successful regional economic development?
A:Robinson believes that RDAs have been told where to spend their funding, and the budget for attracting investment and increasing competitiveness is relatively tiny1.
Economic development consultant George Morran1 advises that the new RDAs "increased complexity, uncertainty and the potential for tension", and much time has been spent sorting out exactly what was expected. He adds "...there are serious questions about whether this way of working is the most productive use of limited resources".
Kevin Southernwood (CBI)1 predicts "limited progress" and difficulty in producing 'real results'.
The SW Constitutional Convention, pushing for regionalism in the SW, had to admit (minutes, 21.2.01) a local poll of "no confidence" in their RDA. In August 2001, Times correspondent Christine Buckley reported wider scale dissatisfactions with RDAs.
Q:What is the government's stated policy on regional government?
A:The 1997 manifesto promised elected regional assemblies where consent was given in a referendum. 1
Southampton MP Alan Whitehead gives a very interesting view1 of government policy: "If modernising means being at the heart of Europe, regional government seems essential" (abridged).
However, the government's current proposals would mean more powers for the Government Offices, and possibilities of elected city or county Mayors might make elected regional government unnecessary.
On the other hand, the growth of RDAs and Government Offices has made some reasons for counties redundant, and they might eventually be absorbed by regions.
Labour's 1997 manifesto promised that no new tiers of government would be created; implying either the breakup of England into totally independent regions or the abolition of counties. Former minister John Prescott is on record as saying that there will be no abolition of county councils.4
Interestingly, Hilary Armstrong, previously Local Government Minister of State to June 2001, was reputed as cool, even scornful towards elected regional assemblies.3,4
Q:Would a referendum now back regional government?
A:CURDS admits that there would be difficulty marshalling a "yes" vote in the immediate future, even in the more sympathetic parts of the North.3
Q:Would regional government need regional taxation?
A:Interestingly, Tomaney of CFER claims that initially no powers of direct taxation would be needed1