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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Should there be regional government in England?
The government has revealed plans for local parliaments for the English regions.

Each area will be offered a referendum on an elected regional assembly.

This could lead to the abolition of existing county councils in order to avoid too many layers of local government.

It is likely that the assemblies will be modelled on the Greater London assembly rather than the Scottish or Welsh versions.

They will be given control of economic development, transport, waste management and planning - but not tax-raising powers.

Assembly members would be elected by proportional representation, with each area having between 25 and 30 members, headed by a first minister.

Would you like to see the more power devolved to the English regions? Tell us what you think.

This Talking Point was suggested by Simon B. Wilson, UK :

We don't need regional English assemblies! What we do need is an elected English parliament to balance the Welsh and Scottish parliaments. A representative number of members from each of these three bodies could then make up a UK parliament.

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This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

This whole plan is an EU scheme to divide and conquer so rendering government at Westminster redundant. As always with the EU the strategy is deception and by stealth. Regional Assemblies will be answerable to the COR - the Committee of the Regions - based in Brussels - and not to the electorate. The result would ultimately be a dismembered, powerless province; a vassal state of the EU - to be avoided like the plague!
Longman, UK

The additional costs of carrying out this gimmick would be saved if the people that were elected did their jobs properly in the first place

Andy P, England
Surely all the additional costs of carrying out this gimmick would be saved if the people that were elected did their jobs properly in the first place. This lot and the last lot were elected by the country to run the country and have obviously failed. What we do not need is more elected under-achievers.
Andy P, England

England is crying out for its own parliament, for a devolved England. The Government, ignoring this, is telling England that, no, it wants to be broken up into meaningless "regions" and that there is no desire for an English parliament, no plural. The Left knows what we want, we don't, so perhaps the people of England ought to shut up and allow their country to vanish, because really that's what's best for all isn't it?
Allan-John Marsh, New Zealand, formerly Co. Durham

A local authority is worthless unless it controls the purse strings - and who wants more taxes to support another layer of bureaucracy? No, the further fragmentation of the United Kingdom is clearly designed to lessen the power of Westminster and prepare the way for Brussels ... intended or not, that will be the result. Scary!
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

Surely the more tiers of responsibility that can be introduced into any form of authority then allows the blame for failure to be spread even further. The greater numbers involved the greater the cost. There is little wonder the current government are in favour of regionalisation. Leave things alone
Peter Fletcher, Redcar UK

The Highland and Islands are different from the Lowlands, but Scotland gets a Parliament. North Wales is different from South Wales but gets an Assembly. Parts of England are different, but they can have assemblies? I think it says more about Labour's thirst for power at any price(they wouldn't really get a look in, in an English parliament) and their fear of English nationalism. And before anyone says anything, the sooner we have a democratic federal Europe, the better
Mike, England

Please, no! The last thing we need is more government. All I see from this proposal is yet another layer of bureaucracy, regulation, costs, taxes, red-tape and second-rate politicians getting in the way of the ordinary people who just want to get on with their lives. Government is the problem, and more government is most definitely not the answer!
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

This system really needs enforcing with some kind of a written constitution

Edward, UK
The problem is that central Government is far too power hungry, they continually take power from local councils and these proposals will do little to correct that, since most of the regional governments' power will come from counties. What we need are much stronger local councils, then proper regional parliaments taking their power from Westminster. For this to work properly raises a wider debate because this system really needs enforcing with some kind of a written constitution, otherwise as soon as any of them were to flex their muscles and object against central government, they would probably find their powers slashed. I don't see why we can't have a proper, strong federal system like we see in many other countries (USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, etc, etc). That would be true devolution - something I think we are unlikely to see anytime soon.
Edward, UK

Unitary authorities lying underneath a strategic regional body (as is proposed) will make local service provision more joined up, more accountable, more efficient and far more flexible than the ridiculous multi-tiered system we have currently. Regional Governance is not just about forums and democracy and identity.
Andrew, UK

West Devon and Cornwall, like parts of Wales and the North are in dire need of a stronger voice. Regional assemblies will not solve this issue. One only has to look at an example: Before Plymouth (in Devon) was a unitary authority, Exeter was the centre for the whole of Devon. Plymouth suffered as a result, because naturally Exeter people were biased for their own city. What we really need is a central independent group tasked with ensuring each region is dealt with fairly and prospering at the same rate.
Paul, U.K.

Since the GLA was set up in London, I have noticed two things: my council tax payments increased by over 10%, and the erection of a large glass dome shaped building (still under construction) next to the River Thames. Sadly, nothing else.

People in Newcastle will feel just as alienated from Middlesbrough as they would from London.

pg, UK
The problem is that England has a very large population sitting in a small place, which in turn comprises of very small chunks that each have a unique cultural and historic heritage dating thousands of years. People relate to where they live at a very regional level, and even devolution will not solve this. Two towns that are just 30 miles apart in separate 'devolved' regions may relate to each other more than each of the devolved regions they sit in. Similarly, within devolved regions, people in Newcastle, for example, will feel just as alienated from Middlesbrough 30 miles down the road as they would from London. No devolution would solve situations such as this.
pg, UK

I think this is a poor idea - if you need an example of how stupid this idea is look at Ottawa, Canada. Up until last year the area around the Nations Capital had a City Council and Regional Government, all answering to Provincial government with separation of powers between the Federal Government. So if you like seeing your tax money wasted paying X to see that Y is doing what Z wants, go ahead and vote for regional government. Perhaps at the same time you could flush some money down the toilet - it amounts to the same thing.
Andrew, Canada

England deserves the same recognition as Scotland and Wales and that is as a country in it's own right and not one subdivided into regions. Money should not be wasted in setting up regional assemblies and eradicating county councils. Better by far to keep the county councils, establish an English Parliament and spend the money on services to the people such as the NHS and so on.
Veronica, England

To those who say it's "another layer of government" - it isn't. It replaces the County Councils.
To those who say it's a plot to break up England -it isn't. Each of the 50 US States have their own assemblies and make it work. I don't think the US is about to fracture any time yet.
To many in the north east, London is a far away place and Parliament doesn't seem very accessible from here. Let's give regional assemblies a go.
Ryan Gallagher, North East England

I've already got a devolved assembly in London... I have no idea who my representatives are or what they've done.

Erik Fuller, UK
I've already got a devolved assembly in London. Partly because of the PR system and partly because these new institutions are tailor-made for second-rate politicians I have no idea who my representatives are or what they've done over the last two years (apart from awarding themselves a big budget increase). I'm not even sure what you are supposed to call them: assemblypersons? Not very involving this devolving lark.
Erik Fuller, UK

The proposed regional assemblies have no revenue raising powers and are therefore subject to central government control. The proposed devolvement of power is therefore a sham. The regional assemblies would as presently proposed have less power than an existing county council. Correspondents have compared these proposed assemblies with European regional governments. In Europe there is a constitutional derived split between national and regional governments responsibilities and both authorities can raise taxes. Without such an arrangement here regional assemblies will not gain involvement and support from the communities they will govern.
Brian, UK(North-East)

No, England does not need regional assemblies. Incidentally your description of them as Local Parliaments inflates their importance in a rather misleading way. They will be both divisive and relatively powerless and will be used as a device to avoid addressing the really important constitutional problems. The fact that England, unlike Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has no forum in which to give political expression to national identity, and the immensely privileged position which Scotland now enjoys within the United Kingdom. A Parliament for England as a whole is the only thing that will answer deal with these problems and is probably the only thing that can now save the United Kingdom.
Jim Matthews, England

You can tell how well thought out this idea was by the fact that the members are to be elected on the PR system. I doubt Tony would give England its own Parliament because his friends, the Scottish, would find themselves out of a job.
John, France

It would seem yet another misguided gimmick

Charles Leighton, England
Scotland has recently regained its separate identity (within the UK) with the introduction of the Scottish Parliament. The proposed fragmentation of a country that does not even have its own parliament, and the dissolution of counties which have formed the cornerstone of local democracy for hundreds of years strikes me as a very divisive proposal, which would dissolve our national identity. Had it not come from John Prescott, I would be wondering for what cynical political purpose it has been proposed. As it is, it would seem yet another misguided gimmick - does anyone seriously believe that a Regional English bureaucrat (probably on quite a decent salary), purportedly representing a resident in a division of a notional entity (England), is going to have any sway over a Brussels Eurocrat (on a phenomenal salary)? What is needed is an English Parliament - this would give us the identity and the voice in Europe, and with the cost of only one institution, rather than eight.
Charles Leighton, England

Sounds like a really silly point but if and when these regional assemblies get off the ground there is bound to be dispute about which city in each region is chosen. Manchester or Liverpool for the North-West? Leeds or Sheffield for Yorkshire? Newcastle or Middlesbrough for the North-East? And so on. A nice idea in theory but if it will work in practice is anybody's guess.
Ed, Salford UK

It depends on what you want from regional government. Norway has this system and is a great success. The government system employs 33% of the work force and uses ?50 billion in administrating itself. This not a system I would inflict on anybody else
Paul, UK

About time! Yes, there should definitely be regional government in England. I really can't understand people's objections to such a reform. We've heard Doom-laden prophecy after Doom-laden prophecy over every piece of political reform, from the 1832 Great Reform Act to the expulsion of hereditary peers from the House of Lords in 1999, and each time the scaremongers have been proved wrong. The British system of government is still fundamentally feudal in its nature, and English devolution should only be seen as a stepping-stone to the system's full modernization. One word of warning, though: no regime in Westminster has ever liked to surrender its overweening power (hence the toothlessness of local authorities), so once English devolution is enacted, assembly members must do all they can to make the bodies work, if necessary independently from Westminster. In other words, we need more people like Ken Livingstone, Rhodri Morgan, and Ray Mallon.
DRP, Yorkshire, England

The NHS is in a mess, so is education, crime and just about everything else. I vote that the government sort this lot out before wasting even more money on a gimmick
Sandra Gray, England

We must have an English parliament first

Alan, UK
Surely we have not yet seen regional government for us to judge. Scotland and Wales are countries not regions and in themselves every bit as diverse as England. As a long time supporter of GB Ltd until devolution we must now have an English parliament first before we have true regionalisation under all three parliaments.
Alan, UK

The most interesting part of this proposal is that the assembly members would be elected by proportional representation. Now that the Government has acknowledged the benefits of this system will it change the way we elect our MPs? Please give power back to the electorate by doing away with the current system, the only people deciding who run the country live in marginal seats.
Jenni, Bristol, England

Working for an extremely low paid job in a County Council I would say, I'd rather not see two thousand plus people on the dole queue because an assembly has taken over from the County Councils. Elected assemblies on a local level will not help you at all. This may be a surprise but your local councillors don't actually know a thing about the service areas they represent, it's the people working there that give you a good service with the things you take for granted - social services, libraries, education, the guys who keep the motorways in order - it's all council. An assembly wouldn't know what to do with all this.
Richard H, UK

The idea of devolved government is in principle a good one, but should not be pursued piecemeal as this government seems to do. So far we have one system for Scotland, another for Wales, yet another for London (and now Hartlepool, etc). What is required is a fully integrated strategy in which it is clear how power is devolved at each level. It's no good simply arguing that new regional parliaments would mean the end of County Councils. Nor is it sensible to simply introduce an additional tier without fully explaining the relationship between each tier down to the lowest level. Devolution of power is good, but it must be done properly or the benefits will all be eaten up in inefficiency, bureaucracy and additional costs.
Philip Rice, United Kingdom

Do the proponents of these ideas have any idea how much all this would cost? Then there's the added red tape. Australia, the world's most over-governed nation, has nine governments. In addition, most of the parliaments have upper houses as well. This ridiculous situation does nothing for the country except for employing hundreds of non-producing politicians and civil servants with their generous salaries, superannuations, and expenses. I think the British people would be mad if they accepted this.
Ray Marsh, Australia

Devolution is a requirement for setting up a European State, a non-democratic state

Hugh Jones, Wales
Devolution is a requirement for setting up a European State, a non-democratic state. It is the method of destroying nation states and establishing an unrepresentative authoritarian government.
Hugh Jones, Wales

Cornwall suffers from being one of 46 European areas whose income is less than 75per cent of the average, whereas Central London tops the league table of UK wealth, with income two-and-a-half times above the European average. This is despite the people in Cornwall currently paying nearly ?2billion a year in taxes and the area being designated an Objective One area by the EU. Of that ?2billion a year in taxes we only get ?1.65billion back - a shortfall of ?350million every year. Surely a regional government could improve on those figures.
PhilT, Cornishman in Oman

English parliament now. No assemblies!
Bob Anderson, USA

Devolution is nothing more than an EU inspired trick to break the UK and deliver it weak and helpless into the clutches of Europe. The reason for this is simple: the UK is a global power. We don't need EU membership and the majority of us don't want it. The EU must therefore divide Britain, making it weaker and more dependent upon EU local area funding, before it can successfully digest us.
Anthony, England, UK

The BBC's poll, which suggests a majority in favour of devolution, does not spell out what was actually being asked. Were respondents asked to choose the form of devolution - i.e. RAs or an English parliament? I suspect not. The results of the poll are as likely to reflect disenchantment with the current government and political structure as it is to 'prove' support for RAs. The sad thing is the English will undoubtedly once again be given no real choice in their own future.
Tom, Hong Kong

Who feels affinity to these "regions" anyway?

David Muir, UK
Devolution to the English regions is completely misguided. Who feels affinity to these "regions" anyway? Let's have real devolution; devolve power to the individual, the family, the school, the hospital, the entrepreneur, not to yet more politicians.
David Muir, UK

I don't want an English Parliament or a South-West Assembly. I want a Cornish one. "Devolution for England" means welding Cornwall into a South-West region that a majority of Cornish people do not want. Devolution? Same old imperialism, more like.
Chris, Cornwall

Regional government would give Tony Blair just another scapegoat. My home village in Lincolnshire has already 4 levels of government - Westminster, Lincolnshire County Council, West Lindsey District and the Parish Council. Surely this enough for any village of less than 1000 inhabitants! I personally think that all counties should become unitary authorities and district councils should be abolished. Most people have a natural affinity with their county and a county has an identity which people relate to which the districts do not. It seems to be that the more layers of government there are the less accountable they become and the less democratic. With only one council for an area people know who is responsible.
Graham, UK/NL

This smacks of yet more political expediency. If this government seriously believed in devolution then every area of the UK would have the same level of devolution rather than the minimum for each area that they thought they could get away with. Devolution will only work in the long run if it is seen to be fair across the whole of the UK. If not, it will only engender resentment between regions.
Nick, UK

It is my opinion that Britain is not ready for more democracy yet. Maybe in another hundred or two hundred years but not now.
Mark, USA

I think there are a lot more important issues to be dealt with. Why on earth do we need more government to fritter away our money? I propose we halve the number of MPs and spend the money saved on making our country great again!
Paul, Manchester UK

A great move to bring the government back to the people

Paul, UK
A great move to bring the government back to the people and make England more in line with the other nations of the union. Or if not done properly just a talking shop and an excuse to get ride of county councils. My county is run by the Tories and the borough (which would get more powers) is run by Labour. What party is in power again?
Paul, UK

I for one would vote for a regional assembly if the government set one up to cover my region: "England"
Mike Hudgell, UK

The proposed regional assemblies will only give a lot of agro and there will be so much overlapping bureaucracy that nothing will get done at all just like in Canada where it is not one country any more but thirteen tin pot dictatorships that do not cooperate with each other and it is actually harder to do anything with a Canadian province than with another country.
Chris, formerly of England, now stuck in Canada

"Don't do it!" Here in Canada there are three levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal; who are constantly at each others throats. One party blaming the other for all kinds of woes. Never mind all the in fighting the huge cost alone of running duplicate services under different standards should serve as a warning.
David Carter, Canada

Having lived in a couple of European countries recently I can see the value of regional governments. You feel much more a part of a society when you live in a smaller region - containing just a few cities and towns, rather than in a large country like the UK. True devolution of power should also bring a more even spread of wealth throughout the UK - rather than all gravitating to a single centre. And how will Labour guarantee that they don't just end up giving Westminster even more centralised powers? Time for a written constitution!
Dave, France

It would all depend on the regional assemblies actually listening to the public

John Michael, UK
Like a lot of proposals for change this is a good idea, if it works. It would all depend on the regional assemblies actually listening to the public and not becoming just another bureaucratic layer of government. In Brighton the local council are fond of giving everybody a voice but, what is the use of a voice when they don't listen. I feel that we should "dip our toes in the water" very cautiously on this one.
John Michael, UK

We've just had a 16% council tax rise - and the suggestion is that we should pay even more for another layer of bureaucrats? No way would I vote for this move.
Mike Rose, England

In Canada we have three levels of government: Federal, Provincial and local. None of them work! They are for ever blaming one another for any failings and taxes are withheld and given at the Federal government's whim!
Maureen, Canada

It's interesting that this will be "modelled on the Greater London assembly rather than the Scottish or Welsh versions." This way Tony's cronies get even more jobs, without running the risk of the English developing their own national identity. It reduces England to the status of a large, spread-out borough. But I guess we all know that the long term plan is to make England just another German province anyway.
Jon Livesey, USA

We don't need regional assemblies; they would be divisive, setting one part of the country against another

Steve Rigby, UK
We already have regional assemblies their role is to advise our councils on what Westminster wants them to do. Nice though it would be for these assemblies to be subject to democratic election. The real point is the loss of power our county councils have suffered over the years. We don't need regional assemblies; they would be divisive, setting one part of the country against another. Just decentralise government, and give the power back to the county councils. People might take the local elections more seriously if they though the local council actually had some power to do good.
Steve Rigby, UK

Anyone who says that there should not be regional assemblies are obviously not from either the North East or North West of England, but the South which already has its own Parliament (Westminster) which has focused policy to better suit their needs, requirements and finances. The Thatcher years personified this completely. It is no surprise that Wales, North East and North West are the three poorest regions in the country.

It was right that Wales got an Assembly, Scotland got a Parliament and it will be right that English regions get a say as well. Scotland receives 17% of the inward investment to this country, compared to 8% in the North East. Scotland receives 19% more per person in Government funding than those in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get direct representation for their regions not only in the UK cabinet, but also in Europe where they can directly attract business into their areas - the English regions do not.

Regional Assemblies would be much more accessible to the people of that region and would make politics seem a little closer to people, and perhaps rebuild some belief in politics. I currently live in Scotland and have seen this happen. It's time that English Regions, where clearly there is a need for an Assembly, if for nothing other than to stand and shout their corner, be given one.
Richard Meade, UK

Regionalism breaks down barriers!

Dave Hartley, Birmingham, UK
Yes, have regional assemblies. Why not? Let's also have an English Parliament. Look at Canada, France, Switzerland and Australia. They have regional powerful governments and also a national one. Regionalism breaks down barriers!
Dave Hartley, Birmingham, UK

President Blair - give us our parliament now, it would be the first step in declaring the independent nation state of Yorkshire and our escape from your Euro-centric master plan.
Mickos, Yorkshire

Dividing England into regions is putting the cart before the horse. Let us have an English Parliament first which could then discuss the desirability or otherwise of Regional Government.
R. Vaughan, England

Country people will lose out in an urban-dominated regional assembly
E. Marsh, England

No, no, no! The idea for English devolution is a hastily drawn up gimmick. It will not address the real problems post-devolution, and it may mean England ending up with splits and division worse than now. What if only two regions say yes and the others say no? How unfair would it be for two regions to have devolution and the others none? If needs must, scrap county councils and form an English Parliament. Talk of regional assemblies is talk of nonsense.
Liam Pennington, UK

No, don't do it! The fragmentation of our United Kingdom is just a preparation for its absorption by Europe. United we stand!
B. Rawlins, UK

To those who complain about "an additional layer of bureaucracy": the bureaucracy is already there!

Douglas, GB
To those who complain about "an additional layer of bureaucracy": the bureaucracy is already there! There is a whole network of quangos and civil servants administering government policy, which are simply not democratically accountable given the nature of the UK Parliament (first-past-the-post, executive stranglehold etc). Effective regional assemblies will be able to control and hopefully streamline these bodies far more effectively. However, I am concerned by the relatively weak form of devolution proposed by the Government. The small number of representatives - which might result in a situation where the Westminster Parliament is arguably MORE representative than the new assemblies, although the PR system will help to balance this out - limits the ability of the bodies to be representative. In addition, and critically, these bodies will have relatively restricted powers. Like the GLA, they'll essentially be co-ordinating, strategic authorities - which is all very well, but not the same thing as the fully-fledged Scottish Parliament with legislative powers and some (though insufficient in my opinion) financial leeway.
Douglas, GB

In theory, this could be one of the most important changes this country has ever seen, and would serve to give local residents more control over the everyday running of their part of the country. In practice it'll probably be yet another shambles and a huge waste of public money that will get absolutely nothing done. How can we give regions of England their own assemblies when England itself doesn't even have one?
Tim Jacks, United Kingdom

I'm tired of politicians advising in favour of regional assemblies. Is there such an animal as an honest politician who will tell us the truth and not try to feather his/her own nest ? We have quite enough bureaucracy. Regional assemblies would simply mean more jobs for the boys. And at whose expense? I'll give you one guess !
Ron Smith, England

Where are the proposals for an English parliament? Why is it that England gets lumbered with running Britain Plc while Scotland has political independence?
John, England

It stops us Welsh blaming the English for everything

Derek, Powys UK
Don't do it, it's another layer of politicians with their hand in your pocket! We have the Welsh Assembly, what a useless bunch of deadbeats. The best thing I can say is that it stops us Welsh blaming the English for everything.
Derek, Powys UK

In my opinion there has to be English regional government in some form. The concept of MPs from England, Scotland and Wales voting on UK issues is one thing but voting on issues that affect only England is another. It's undemocratic. There should be a parity of power/authority between the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and an English local government, with Westminster handling the remaining UK-wide issues.
Ian, London, UK

I suppose this might work well for a part of the country with a strong regional identity, but I can see the area where I live being squeezed into the most distant part of the south-east region (since there seem to be no plans for a South Midlands), our county council being wound up, and any semblance of local autonomy going, yet again, to London. Decentralisation? Hmmm....
Andy, Oxford, UK

Devolving power to English regions can only be a good thing. What is good policy for, say, Devon, might not be right for Tyneside. It's only right that regions should be given more power to address local issues, rather than Westminster making blanket decisions. Devolution in Scoltand has demonstrated this - greater accountability, scrapping tuition fees, free healthcare for the elderly. Just because you give more autonomy to regions doesn't mean you destroy 'Britain', rather, you recognise the diversity of the island and the individual issues of its constituent parts.
Allan, Scotland

I think what we need is not a shake-up of our political system, but a shake-out of our politicians. They seem to turn every democratic institution, from local authorities all the way up to Parliament itself, into nothing more than talking shops where they can get their own voices and opinions heard. Before we start introducing yet another layer of talking shops, let's get politics in this country back to where it belongs: giving the ordinary people a voice in matters. Until and unless that happens, voter apathy will continue to make all of our elected assemblies toothless and spineless.
David Hazel, UK

There is a need for regional government that can respond to the wishes of the electorate

Shelley Fyfe, England
Central government is just too big and cumbersome to implement policies at a local level in an effective way. Local government on the other hand is too small to effect real change and has become marginalised over the last 30 years. There is a need for regional government that can respond to the wishes of the electorate and not the dictate of Whitehall and is also not tied up in petty local disputes.
Shelley Fyfe, England

We have to find a way to make citizens realize that democracy involves them - apathy is not healthy for democracy. Maybe regional assemblies can provide a link, and enable people to see that local government can affect their lives and hopefully they might be represented by people with vision and commitment, to break the present mould of indifferent and often inept local government.
Rachel Sheard, Midlands

The idea of introducing these so-called English assemblies is quite frankly absurd. Bringing in yet more middle management to this country would only succeed in unnecessarily consuming more of the budgets that these areas are operating under. The NHS is a prime example of what occurs when funding is used at management level rather than at the grass roots where it is needed. The sub-standard wards should be serving as a warning of what would happen if the assemblies were to be brought in.
Henrietta, UK

Only fanatic Europhobes can be fearful of this change

Nick Wallis, UK
Regional government offers communities the chance to exert greater influence to shape their destinies, not less. Assemblies will introduce democratic accountability to functions currently exercised by unelected quangos and Regional government offices - they do not strip local government of their influence. It's a sad commentary on the organisation of the UK state that bureaucrats currently have free rein in these areas, and not local people accountable to the electorate. Only fanatic Europhobes, who seem to be able to see an EU conspiracy in every government proposal, can be fearful of this change.
Nick Wallis, North East, UK

England is very "regional" and is not very cohesive. For this reason, forcing a sense of national identity upon us will not work. We should focus on fixing the problems with local government rather than throwing it all away and starting again from zero. For example, as a life-long Londoner, I feel that the throwing away the GLC was a political move rather than a practical one. Londoners were given the choice to have the mayor and voted him in, but would have preferred the option to bring back the GLC as it was. The mayor now has little power to actually achieve what we voted him in for, and the assembly have done little either. At least it seems that with this plan, the rest of the country will get to decide if they want their existing institutions abolished - and should by all means vote for change; but complete abolition is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Local governments are the best-placed to serve the people, and should be given more power, not less!
Brendan Fernandes, UK

People want representation. Local and county councils are emasculated since the days of rate capping and continued centralisation. So why build an extra tier, why not just re-empower the counties and metropolitan counties? As for regions themselves, they are arbitrary geographic groupings, not founded in social or political culture (unlike Scotland, NI and Wales). It won't work.
Gary Osborne, UK

Rural areas like Herefordshire will find themselves ruled from big urban centres such as Birmingham

Martin Marston-Paterson, Wales
The proposed assemblies are based upon artificial regions. Rural areas like Herefordshire will find themselves ruled from big urban centres such as Birmingham, with which they have absolutely nothing in common. Government from London or Birmingham, there's no difference to rural areas. What we really need is for much greater powers to be given to county councils, because the counties are the real areas with which people identify, and they vary enormously in their societies and their problems.
Martin Marston-Paterson, Wales

I see no point in adding yet another talking shop with little power to do anything. The current system could be made to work if only local councils were given the power to actually do things, and raise their own money. Our local councils are currently powerless to central government targets, rules, and above all the 80% of their finance that comes from central government. If local councils have no power is it any surprise that many councils fail to attract good councillors and votes from the local population?
Brian Blackmore, UK

Politically speaking, the introduction of regional governments would be a long step back towards the Dark Ages which predated the arrival of the Normans. Having abandoned the complications and friction inherent in regional administration a thousand years ago, it seems extraordinary that Mr. Blair has suddenly decided to resurrect it. I sense that our present government is once again displaying its ignorance of this nation's history by toying with long abandoned concepts which it thinks represent innovative thinking. My best suggestion is that our prime minister should spend less time tinkering aimlessly with matters that he clearly fails to understand, and more time studying the political background of the nation which he is trying to govern.
Chris B, England

The system of decentralisation is the next logical step to facilitate the centralisation of power in Europe, and an effective delivery mechanism. I personally do not mind this, but surly some debate/referendum should be held rather than "Europe by stealth".
Craig Grant, England

There are far too many mollycoddled public sector employees in this country already

Derek, England
England definitely does not need yet another level of government. There are far too many mollycoddled public sector employees in this country already. What we need is some forward-looking politicians who are prepared to slash the numbers in public service saving millions of pounds in pensions and early retirement benefits. Benefits not available to millions of workers in small private businesses. These workers are getting angry and that anger will only serve to increase those taking up the cause of the extreme political parties. UK politicians beware.
Derek, England

No, its just another means of breaking up the country. Our politicians can no longer be trusted to serve the best interest of the country, they look only to themselves and future careers within a European parliament. England needs its own government not one that has a Scottish majority, a government that will look to the needs of our country.
Barry, England

I don't see any need for paranoia about England being 'broken up'. We already have a mild degree of fragmentation based on the county system, and any regional governments would surely be complementary. Provided the boundaries are fixed wisely - for example not lumping culturally and economically distinct entities such as Cornwall with Wessex - the regions potentially have as long a pedigree (many divisions dating from Anglo-Saxon times) as the counties. The sound administrative and democratic arguments for devolution have been covered elsewhere.
Gabriel Berry, East Anglia, England

I am English but live in Wales. There are arguments as to whether the Welsh Assembly has done much for the people of Wales but it could teach Westminster a lot. It is far less confrontational with less point scoring. You can't tell which party a member is from very often. They don't time waste with archaic procedure and planted questions. It is very informal. They even use first names! Areas like the north west should have a parliament. London is too dominant in many areas of life.
Brian Clowes, Wales, UK

Devolution in Scotland has been a completely unmitigated disaster

Mike, Edinburgh
You don't want it! Devolution in Scotland has been a completely unmitigated disaster. The worst decision of this government was to let the devolution cat out of the bag. And the best thing they could do would be to scrap this highly expensive, and highly offensive "parliament".
Mike, Edinburgh, UK

I'm from the north west of England but I'm studying in Edinburgh, and Mike has got it wrong! Devolution, overall, is working - it's giving Scotland a voice and making sure that Scottish issues are handled with due care and attention from representatives elected by Scots. I'd love to see devolution back home!
Will Patterson, UK

This country is a sum of its parts. Not just London and the rest of the UK, not just urban and not just rural. Devolving power to make smaller, more manageable discreet units is a good idea, but only if everyone in this country can be represented fairly and squarely.
Daren, UK

Oh great; another layer of politicians. That will give us five levels of government - town council, county council, regional council, Westminster and Europe. Just what we need for greater accountability!
Richard Ormson, UK

This proposal isn't local democracy; it is remote and inaccessible

Alex, UK
The regional assemblies will be expensive talking shops. They will remove local democracy from local government - the exact opposite effect from the one envisaged by the government. This is because the county councils will be abolished to prevent overlapping of responsibilities - this is not denied by the government. Thus, a person in Keswick, Cumbria, will no longer be able to have a quick chat with his councillor down the road. Instead he or she will have to speak to an anonymous second-rate politician in Manchester. This proposal isn't local democracy; it is remote and inaccessible.
Alex, UK

It is perverse that the mechanisms of power for all of England reside in one extreme corner of the country. I find it deeply offensive for people in London to preside and make decisions on matters concerning the west country; it should be people in and from the west country doing this. Perhaps people in the arrogantly named "home counties" are afraid that, if regions had a greater say in how and where their own monies were spent, then London-based cash drains such as the underground, Dome, new House of Commons building, state and royal occasions and so forth would not be subsidised by the rest (majority) of us who live elsewhere.
Andrew Dimbleby, South-west England

Long overdue - yet again we are slow in following the lead of other countries such as the US and Germany. The regions play an understated role in promoting regeneration and attracting inward investment.
Simon, UK

The new assemblies probably won't be able to do much

Barry, UK
Two massive provisos which I think make the whole thing doomed to failure. First is the government's desire to ensure that maximum control stays in London. So the new assemblies probably won't be able to do much more except vote for new traffic congesting schemes. However they will spend a lot of YOUR money in establishing their impotence and in the case of London, their incompetence as well. Be warned.
Barry, UK

Devolving power to the regions within a central wealth balancing framework is essential in making the public feel more in control of their surroundings and in preventing poor and rushed policies being applied without sufficient democratic process. Some of the strongest examples are found in urban and transport planning and in agricultural policy. However, the precedent set in London means little unless regional authorities have a wide-ranging veto and substantial spending power.
Thomas Smith, Cambridge, England

The metropolitan councils proved just how much taxpayers' money was being wasted by an extra level of government - why should we consider another one? This will only serve to distance the government from local issues and make it more remote - and more costly.
Alan Jones, UK

Yeah, independence for the south west at last!
Scott Baldry, Wessex

This could well be the answer to my prayers (but looking at the proposed regions I doubt it). The public transport provisions in the central south have for years suffered from the fact that they are controlled by too many councils (including at least two county councils). If the entire region was grouped together we might finally see an integrated public transport system that allowed you to work in one town and live in another without the daily traffic jam. However it looks like Bournemouth will be dumped in the south west with the rest of Dorset while Southampton and Portsmouth (where most of the work is) will be in the south east and so will lose out to the home counties.
Helen, South, UK

We should have the same potential as the Scottish parliament

Will Lever, UK
The north west of England: Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cumbria have a population in excess of seven million people. This is a lot more then Scotland, Wales or the Republic of Ireland for that matter. Our problems and divergences are just as great as any of these countries. We should have the same potential as the Scottish parliament - otherwise it is indeed just an exercise in creating more needless bureaucracy without following through the logic of real decentralisation and devolution.
Will Lever, UK

The experience of the London assembly - created by Labour without any effective power - is not encouraging. And will we see a more equitable distribution of taxpayers' money? I doubt it.
Ben, England

No, but I would like to see an independent England and freedom from the burden of subsidising Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. That way, it would be up to the EU to bail out the whingeing Celts, not just the English taxpayer!
Pete, UK

In response to the message by Pete, UK:
I love England, I love the English people. Furthermore I like being part of a UNITED Kingdom... but if the English are going to be bitchy like this, we won't let you play at our stadium anymore (he, he)!!
Nick, Wales, UK

Regionalisation would strip power from local district and county councils and concentrate it in bodies that are more effectively influenced from Westminster. We all saw that the Welsh regional assembly's leadership and the mayor of London selection process was heavily influenced by this government who tried as hard as they could to have their "place men" installed.
Andrew Cover, UK

This is designed to break up England

Philip Shorter, England
We already have too many layers of government and how much will it cost? What also has to be underlined is this is designed to break up England in preparation for further integration within the EU. Different regions will compete with each other for EU funds thus achieving the EU's aim of disuniting England so as to engulf the country into a united federal Europe.
Philip Shorter, England

I have only one comment. England is a country and a country within its own right, in the same way that the other three countries of Scotland, Wales and Ireland are recognised as being. If the government wants to hold a referendum, why don't they have one in regard to whether or not we English want our own parliament, as opposed to their plans of dividing us to further their EU agenda?
Julie, North East, England, UK

It is ironic how on one hand we are all being steamrollered into a United States of Europe, and on the other hand our United Kingdom is being fragmented. I can't rationalise these contradicting movements. Surely one or the other?
Chris Cowdery, UK

Regional devolution is just a gimmick - it is absolute rubbish. I agree entirely with Chris Cowdery and Philip Shorter!!
Graham, UK

Find out what people around England said

The results
Should there be regional government in England?



4219 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

09 May 02 | UK Politics
New voice for English regions
09 May 02 | UK Politics
Devolution offered to English regions
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