Letter: Debating subsidiarity

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Banham is quoted in your paper (report, 25 June) making a very important point about local government. He says there seems to be 'no agreement, or even discussion, about what (it) should look like in the second decade of the next century'. Sir John, in fact, is half right. There's no agreement, but there is discussion.

My own proposal for the future role of sub-national - regional and local - government has been published locally, is being discussed, and I hope a refined version will soon receive much wider attention. There must be plenty of others doing the same. Until this kind of debate has been held, and the future role of sub-national government is decided, it is difficult to see how Sir John can work out an efficient structure for it.

And the role has got to be appropriate for sub-national government within a European member state because that is what the UK is. Cabinet ministers who have read the Maastricht treaty will know that subsidiarity ensures the future role of sub-national government as the democratic right of the people - not something that can be removed or rendered pointless at the whim of the centre.

Subsidiarity, in fact, is aimed at preventing exactly what is happening in the UK, which has the most centralised form of government in Europe. The United Kingdom and Ireland are the only two EC countries not already devolving central powers to sub-national government.

They are, simply and sadly, swimming against the tide of greater democracy. Ministers should accept that important reality. They should now revise the brief of Sir John's Local Government Commission so that he can recommend the best role for regional and local government within the UK. Then he can sort out the structure.



County Councillor (Con)

Essex County Council

County Hall

Chelmsford, Essex

25 June