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Billions spent in region by quangos.

Byline: Jonathan Walker

Billions of pounds are spent in the Midlands by Londoncontrolled undemocratic quangos, new studies have shown.

The reports, by experts at Aston University, come as the debate on home rule for the West Midlands hots up.

A recent poll found that nearly three-quarters of West Midlanders want to see a new regional assembly created.

In May the Government is to unveil its plans for devolution in the English regions, which could revolutionise the way services are provided in the West Midlands.

However, Conservatives say the proposals will add even more bureaucracy and destroy traditional county councils. They want powers to be returned to existing local authorities instead.

The new surveys were commissioned by the West Midlands Constitutional Convention, which is campaigning for regional government.

They found total public expenditure in the West Midlands was pounds 13.5 billion, not including social security payments. About pounds 5.7 billion was officially controlled by local councils. However, in practice, some council spending decisions are made by central Government rather than politicians elected locally.

The remaining pounds 7.8 billion was spent by bodies outside the control of local authorities.

This included pounds 4.3 bn on health, pounds 900 million spent directly by central government, pounds 700 million on policing, and pounds 600 million spent by learning and skills councils, which have taken over responsibility for sixth forms from local councils.

Report authors Sarah Ayres and Graham Pearce, of Aston Business School, said: 'The jigsaw of non-departmental public bodies, task forces and local public spending bodies are governed by people appointed by government Ministers.

'This can be perceived as a challenge to the role of traditional, representative local government charged with delivering the majority of local services.'

England was already moving towards regional government with the creation of local quangos such as the Regional Development Agency and health and eduction bodies, they said.

The problem was that these are undemocratic, and lack the independence and resources needed to tackle the region's economic problems, say the academics.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 26, 2002
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