West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

Bodies Without a Democratic Mandate

Posted by Ken on October 5, 2006


Hilary Kitchin from LGIU says that the upcoming local government white paper should adhere to the principles of European Charter of Local Self-Government, which the government signed in 1997.



Sounds like more from the EU, but this time is not! Proponents of the European Union do not help matters when they constantly refer to the European Union as Europe, hence we get the term anti-European, of course no one is anti- European, but I digress; the European Charter of Local Self-Government is part of the other European movement, the one Winston Churchill was keen on, and that is the “Council of Europe” not to be confused with the “Council of the European Union”.

The Council of Europe was created in 1949, it is a European organisation devoted to the protection and promotion of human rights, to the rule of law and to pluralist democracy, presently comprising 40 member countries. Sounds quite nice, no wonder Churchill approved.

Setting aside for the moment that any external body influencing our elected governments policy is a strike against the democratic principle.

1. What is local self-government?

It is the ability of local authorities to regulate and manage, themselves, a substantial share of public affairs in the interests of the local population.

This right is exercised by democratically elected councils which may possess executive organs responsible to them.

This right shall be exercised by councils or assemblies composed of members freely elected by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal, universal suffrage, and which may possess executive organs responsible to them. This provision shall in no way affect recourse to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen participation where it is permitted by statute.

European Charter of Local Self-Government (Article 3).

Hilary Kitchin explains “The Charter was signed on behalf of the UK on the election of the new Labour government in 1997, and ratification followed quickly, in 1998, creating a legitimate expectation that the government will adhere to its provisions when considering reform.

In brief, the Charter stresses the right of local authorities to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs in the interests of local people, and enshrines the concept of subsidiarity. The Charter is also clear that local authorities must be able to exercise discretion over adequate, diverse and buoyant resources.

The Charter provides a litmus test for considering the appropriate level at which decisions are made. For central government, formal recognition of these principles would involve all service departments with local responsibilities, such as health, recognising the role of local decision making and being prepared to relax centralised constraints.”

Because of this Ms Kitchen says: Subsidiarity also calls into question the role of quangos, and the implications of public responsibilities being heavily influenced or discharged by bodies without a democratic mandate.

Regional Assembly members please take note, you are not a democratically elected body.

The regional development boards/ assemblies are government quangos, originally set up in principal by the Conservative party as a response to the European Union regional development funds rules, which required a body in each EU recognised Region to be the direct recipient of EU Funds (let us not here get into the fact that it is our money in the first place) the EU Commission has now said that these assemblies must be elected, but after the NE debacle this is not a likely prospect any time soon.

So it would appear that Tony Blair signed up to Council of Europe’s European Charter of Local Self-Government, but has seemingly ignored that commitment to pursue an EU regionalisation policy adding into the mix a separate layer of government in the form of Regional Assemblies.

It might be argued that if the Regional Assemblies were elected they would conform to the CofC Charter of Local Self-Government, but as we have seen that is not possible at the moment.

The government would appear to be stuck in a cleft stick; the EU only wants to give money to EU recognised Regional Assemblies, which it says must be elected and the Government have signed up to the European Charter of Local Self-Government which also says that local government must be elected, The present local councils are elected but much of their power has been passed to the unelected Regional Assemblies and the government dare not hold more referenda because they got burned last time out.

The government’s local government white paper will make interesting reading.


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