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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
South: SEERA shaken?
Ian Paul
Ian Paul
Producer Politics Show
BBC South

SEERA Assembly
SEERA: Talking shop or action point?

Could a tiff over a tip mark the beginning of the end for our regional assembly?

Certainly the Conservative leader of West Sussex County Council, Henry Smith, is hoping that it might.

He tells the Politics Show South that the amount of London's rubbish being dumped on the South is too great and unless something is done about it the county may withdraw from SEERA, the South East of England Regional Assembly.

Now, you might not have known several things in that.

That London dumps its waste in the South for one. Or that SEERA is somehow responsible for that.

Or even that there is such a thing as SEERA, for that matter.

Voice of the South?

To take the last bit first. SEERA certainly does exist. According to its website it is "The Representative Voice of the Region". So now you know.

But does it do what it says on the tin?

It is made up of 74 councillors and 34 representatives of 'stakeholder organisations' like the South East England Faith Forum, the South East Sports Board and the CBI.

It has a staff of 36 and a budget of 4m.

It also has a responsibility to keep an eye on SEEDA, the South East England Development Agency.

But it hardly has the highest profile with the public.

When we asked the people of Chichester recently what they thought it was, answers ranged from "A jewellers!" to "Is it a pop group?".

Nobody got the right answer.

Planning responsibility

It is also responsible for the South East Plan, which is where the rubbish comes in.

In amongst trying to cut down on London's bin bags being sent here, the Plan also sets targets for transport, urban regeneration and house building.

Crucially, though, it is not directly elected, which is just one beef that politicians in all parties have with it.

None of us got asked whether we wanted the 28,000 new homes a year that are proposed in the Plan.

And if we are not happy with how the Plan turns out then we have no comeback. There is no one to vote out of office.

So do we need it? Or more accurately do we need it in its present form?

Elected members?

Many of the politicians who actually sit on it say it should be directly elected. But since the rather resounding

No in the referendums in the north for elected regional assemblies, there is little chance of SEERA changing.

So is that tantamount to saying we should scrap it?

If we keep it, and if we reform it (both big ifs) then the next question becomes do we really need so many tiers of local government?

Perhaps the obvious candidates for the chop then would be the county councils, squeezed between the ultra-local and the strategically regional.

Storm in teacup?

All a storm in a councillor's teacup, you think?

Well, bear in mind that the South East Plan is going to determine how our housing, transport, economy, environment and even health service here in the south develops over the next ten years.

So what do you think? Scrap it or reform it? Is West Sussex right to be thinking about pulling out?

Should we be thinking about doing away with West Sussex and all the other county councils instead?

Send us an email, and we can put your points to our invited guests.

The Politics Show

Join Peter Henley live from Winchester on the Politics Show on Sunday 18 June 2006 at 12:00 on BBC One.

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.


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