Letter: Serious about subsidiarity

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The Independent Online
From Sir Anthony Meyer

Sir: How many of your readers are aware that the British government is one of the few members of the Council of Europe which has not signed the European Charter of Local Self Government? Among the other non signatories are Bulgaria, Slovenia, Lithuania and San Marino.

The Charter is a very widely drawn document setting out the basic principles of local democracy. It is an instrument of the Council of Europe which groups all the 32 democratic nations of Europe, east and west, and it therefore contains no provision for enforcement by any supranational agency as it might have done had it been part of the European Union.

The Government's reasons for refusing to sign are that "the flexibility of Parliament's powers in making provision for the finance, structure and functions of local government would be considerably restricted". In other words, the creeping centralisation which has gone on unchecked in this country for decades would be embarrassingly exposed if we were to sign.

This issue is to be debated at this week's Annual General Meeting of the European Movement, the all-party organisation campaigning for an integrated, democratically controlled Europe.

We want to see powers being devolved, not just from Brussels to national governments, but further down the line to local and regional authorities. For, unlike the Government, we are serious about subsidiarity.

Yours faithfully,

ANTHONY MEYER

Policy Director

European Movement, UK

London, SW1

20 March

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