CBI Rejects Regional Assembly Politics; Art for Sake of Balanced Education

The Birmingham Post (England), September 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

CBI Rejects Regional Assembly Politics; Art for Sake of Balanced Education


Byline: Jonathan Walker

Proposals for an elected regional assembly have been condemned by the Confederation of British Industry, as it calls for politicians to be kept out of regional decision making.

The CBI has written to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, arguing that regional government would do more harm than good to the local economy. The move is another blow to the Government's plans. It follows criticism from the West Midlands Constitutional Convention, the most vocal supporters of a new tier of administration, who argued Mr Prescott's proposals would fail because they did not go far enough.

Now the CBI, which represents larger businesses, has come out in opposition for very different reasons.

'The last thing business wants is an ineffective and expensive talking shop,' said Carolyn Hannah, West Midland director of the CBI.

'We have little confidence that elected assemblies would be best able to tackle the problems of economic growth and job creation, or that they would attract good enough people to make a real difference.'

The CBI argues an elected regional assembly would attract mediocre politicians, as the most talented would aim for Parliament, or stick to local councils which would have more power.

Under proposals outlined in a Government White Paper, the West Midlands could have its own elected assembly with taxraising powers, similar to the Scottish Parliament.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: 'Employers want stronger regional economies, but there is little evidence to suggest elected assemblies will make a difference.

'The problems are managerial, not political. Assemblies would jeopardise the freedom of RDAs by subjecting them to unhelpful party political interference.'

In its official response to the White Paper, the CBI says: 'As most decisions will continue to be taken nationally and locally, political accountability needs to rest essentially at these levels.'

While talented leaders were needed at regional level, for example to deliver the Government's goal of improving transport, these would not be attracted to 'regional talking shops', said the CBI.

'Talented political leaders are unlikely to be attracted to regional institutions in sufficient numbers.

'The example of the existing devolved authorities shows thatthey are often viewed as briefstaging post by quality politicians with national ambitions. …

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