The Heseltine Report “No stone unturned” was a return to the rain drenched downlands of little Neddies and Labour’s economic plans of the 1960s, laced with that old storm, balkanised England. The Report proudly sets out suggested bondaries for another effort at regional government. I prefer the government’s approach, ending RDAs, regional planning quangos and much of the rest of the panoply of false regional splits in England. We do not need or want yet another layer of government. We do not want our country broken up in the way the EU seeks. Large projects require the national government, smaller ones can be handled by Councils if the public sector is needed at all.
Nor are the proposals much more welcome when it comes to analysing their democratic content. The Report recommends taking nearly £50 billion of spending over a four year period and giving it to unelected bodies like LEPs to distribute. This is money largely at the moment allocated and supervised by elected Ministers. Businesses are to be encouraged or dragooned into Trade Associations and Chambers of Commerce, who will then speak for them, supply them with services and regulate them all at the same time. The old mysteries or guilds have been long asleep, but this report seems to wish to waken them back into life.
The Report throws in for good measure the abolition of all remaining two tier local government, whatever the local preferences.
The answer to the UK’s growth needs rests more with tax reduction and simplification, with simplification and removal of complex and less desirable regulations, and mending the banks. Changing local government fundamentally, redirecting training and apprenticeship monies, and seeking to give wide ranging powers to unelected regional bodies is not the answer.