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Politics: Yorkshire is first of nine to launch regional chamber

WITH A satisfied smile the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, launched the country's first regional chamber in his home town of Hull yesterday. He was clearly proud that Yorkshire was the first to get its act together ahead of any other region.

The launch comes even before the legislation has been laid down to create nine Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in England next year, which chambers are expected to partner.

The intention to establish the voluntary regional chambers was announced last December. They will be made up of a wide variety of organisations - including local authorities and business, commercial, educational, social, environmental and rural groups - which will guide RDAs towards their goal of creating "world-class regions".

The RDAs will lead bodies to co-ordinate inward investment, raise people's skills, improve the competitiveness of business, further sustainable development and encourage social and physical regeneration.

"The speed with which people here have moved shows the strength and depth of partnership from all sectors who are firmly committed to enhancing the region's economic performance," Mr Prescott said.

"We believe in moving towards directly elected regional government, but demand varies across England. We are not in the business of imposing solutions on people. However, regional chambers represent a great opportunity to develop a regional voice."

But as Mr Prescott witnessed the symbolic signing of a pledge of partnership between regional leaders and organisations and as invited guests from industry, business, politics and education mingled over lunch, back-room workers admitted that they were not sure yet exactly how the chamber would work.

Lynda Syed of the Yorkshire Regional Assembly, which represents all the 22 local authorities in the area and which helped to create the regional chamber, said that events were moving so fast she was not sure what would happen from one day to the next. However, she added: "I am sure it will all pan out".

The chamber's inaugural meeting is not until July. Meanwhile, work is going on finalising its operational details and its work programme.