I am pleased to see the Government are taking a further step in abolishing unelected regional government in England, with proposals ending regional statistics.
The consultation states:
“The primary focus of statistical data collection in the Department is at a local authority level. However when publishing data we usually provide statistics at a range of geographic levels typically Local Authority, Statistical Region and an England total.
"The abolition of the Government Office network at the end of March 2011 was central to the Government's wider aims of transferring power from central government to local councils and local communities. In the Government’s view, the nine offices were an inefficient tier of government based on arbitrary boundaries rather than representing the areas that citizens most identified with or areas with common economic problems and market conditions or the most sensible boundaries for coordinating more centralised government functions, such as fire and resilience. The Government Office boundaries were the same as those for statistical regions defined using the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS), as defined in European legislation.
"Many of the Government’s policies now use alternative sub-national geographies, for example the newly created Local Enterprise Partnerships, and many policies operate at the local level, for example the New Homes Bonus. Use of the former Government Office regional boundaries no longer provides a coherent framework for considering policies following the abolition of the Government Office network, the Regional Development Agencies and Regional Strategies.
"In light of the move away from regional level administration and the Government’s commitment to further progression of the decentralisation agenda, this consultation seeks user views on geographical levels for statistical outputs. The responses to this consultation will be used by the Department to inform its presentation of all statistical outputs.”
This is something that Conservative councils should very much support. Outside London (which has a coherence as the capital and a real place), the Government Office Regions are arbitrary lines on a map, and lack democratic legitimacy and any sense of popular attachment. They are an obstacle to decentralisation: if we are to devolve more power and funding to local government, we need to remove the regional structures – as they suck power and funding upwards.
Naturally, state bureaucrats won’t like this. It will annoy the European Union – which has broken up England into a series of regions under the appropriately named "NUTS" directive. This is part of the federalist agenda of creating a "Europe of the Regions" where nation-states don't exist.
This initiative will undermine that Euro-regionalisation process. I hope you will encourage your council to respond to the consultation supporting the proposals.
Other proposals include reducing the burden on local government by reducing the volume of housing data that is demanded.