LGA push to retain council powers

The Local Government Association (LGA) is to embark on a last-ditch lobbying push in an attempt to safeguard the powers of councils before the Devolution Bill is published in the summer.

The LGA issued a stark warning this week and said councils were threatened with the loss of services to a higher tier of government if Whitehall sets up regional assemblies, as revealed in freshly published research carried out by the University of Birmingham.

The LGA said councils must relay their suggestions to the Boundary Committee to influence the forthcoming Bill if they want to maintain decision-making at a local level rather than hand over powers to regional bodies.

Ministers are currently thrashing out what the Bill will contain. The LGA predicts it will propose three regional assemblies in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber, with residents voting on proposals in October.

An LGA spokeswoman said: ‘We are lobbying for powers to be drawn down from government, not up, so local democracy is not compromised in any way.’

Councils must act now to make sure they get the best deal for local people if elected regional assemblies are given the go-ahead in England, according to the LGA.

Devolved government could regulate local councils as much as Whitehall, the research commissioned by the LGA and the County Councils Network warned.

Researchers also warned that imposing elected assemblies on existing regional governance structures would exacerbate current problems in decision-making and accountability, and may lead to an upward drift of functions from local to regional level.

However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is putting together the Bill, denies regional assemblies would take away services from councils.

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