Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Party Lines

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Party Lines

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes

So is there a future for regional Government? After the overwhelming rejection of a North-East regional assembly you would possibly have thought not but that was the task MPs charged themselves with yesterday when they grilled senior officials from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

They wanted to know why, when voters had said no to regional government was John Prescott pressing ahead regardless. They wanted to know what the Deputy Prime Minister had up his sleeve in the forthcoming White Paper on local government and of course they wanted to know how much influence the regions had ever played in shaping Government policy.

Local government director-general Neil Kingham highlighted the wonderful work of regional funding allocations and regional transport priorities, which in his mind were perfect examples of bottom-up policy-making at its best.

As the MPs rightly told him, though, the policies hadn't actually been constructed in the regions before changing Government thinking ( they were in fact policies dictated by Whitehall which regional leaders had little choice but to comply with.

"It was open to them to say no we don't want to play along," Bob Linnard, regional transport director added.

Really? It didn't fool the select committee, however. Chairman Phyllis Starkey promptly responded: "Why don't you go and find some examples instead of you making one up here."

IT'S always amazing to listen to Government mandarins to see what new vocabulary is being used in the corridors of power ( and yesterday's committee meeting investigating the future of regional government was just one place to hear it.

"Complimentarity", it appears, is now the must-have word for all senior officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister ( straight after step-change and stakeholder.

However, in a committee session unusually jammed full of comical moments, it was the attempt by officials to explain exactly what an economic cycle was that left most people bemused.

Easington's John Cummings had picked up on the Government's target of reducing persistent regional disparities "over a full economic cycle" asking: "So what is an economic cycle and when do you expect it to end? …

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