Stewart Jackson MP, Conservative Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, has an interesting piece over on ConservativeHome today. The article provides an excellent run-down and critique of the current proposals for yet more transfer of powers to regional quangos , including the establishment of "unelected economic and transport quangos" which will be "empowered to impose "local charging schemes", in the form of congestion taxes, road pricing and workplace parking taxes."
He also makes the astute observation, previously described on the blog in various cases, that the GOvernment:
have no wish to learn the lessons of the emphatic "no" vote in the North East regional referendum in 2004 and the more recent overwhelming rejection of congestion charging in Greater Manchester before Christmas.
Instead, the underlying message is "if the system doesn't deliver our policies at local level as a result of the voters' decisions - let's keep changing the system till it does!" In short, an arrogant disregard for the autonomy and legitimacy of local democracy and decision making.
It is encouraging in itself to hear the Opposition making these criticisms, as it at least heavily implies they would do things differently. Hopefully we will soon start to find out some concrete measures that they will put in place were they to form a Government to start delivering real power back to the people. Jackson does dangle one, tantalising hint before the end of his article:
Labour's Stalinist quango state of unelected party elites is not the way to achieve these aims.
In contrast, we'll scrap the whole tier of regional planning.
Is that a pledge to scrap the Regional Development Agencies? I certainly hope that it is and that it will be made clearer and more solid in the near future.
As our research in August and then December last year showed, the RDAs are wasteful, self-congratulatory bodies that produce very little other than jobs for themselves and a good deal of hot air. The media and public reaction to our reports demonstrates that there is a strong public appetite for abolishing them entirely and giving their powers to local, democratically elected representatives - real localism, rather than sham regionalism.
If you liked what you read here, you can join the campaign against RDAs and other wasteful quangos by joining the TaxPayers' Alliance for free here.