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banner Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Tories to free councils
Archie Norman: reverse centralisation of power
Archie Norman: reverse centralisation of power
The Conservatives have attacked Labour for its "culture of centralisation" and promised to free local councils and halt the flight from cities to the countryside.

Shadow secretary for the environment, transport and regions Archie Norman told the Conservatives at Bournemouth that Labour had squandered its opportunity to decentralise power and revive the inner cities.

If we are to be a compassionate government, committed to all the people, we must be a government committed to reversing the flight from our cities

Archie Norman

And he announced that the Tories would scrap national planning targets and spending caps on local councils - the latter first introduced by Mrs Thatcher.

Mr Norman said that it was time to "break the culture of centralisation" introduced by Labour.

"Instead of decentralisation, they are the most centralising government ever. Instead of restoring the inner cities, they have perpetuated their decline.

"We will undo all the damage caused by Labour. We will roll back the power of the central state. We will let local people decide on local issues," he said.

Pledge on inner cities

Mr Norman attacked Labour for allowing too many houses to be built in the countryside, with development moving into the green belt and other areas of natural beauty.

" Labour is hell-bent on a policy of building on the countryside, extending urban sprawl and destroying villages and small towns," he said.

He argued that it was the decline of the inner cities that was adding to pressure on the countryside.

The Tories would end deprivation in inner cities and give new powers for regeneration.

"If we are to be a compassionate government, committed to all the people, we must be a government committed to reversing the flight from our cities," Mr Norman said.

On Monday, Mr Hague unveiled wide-ranging plans to tackle the problems of the inner cities by creating special regeneration companies in order to attract private finance to poor areas, and demolishing tower blocks.

Spending powers

Mr Norman said the Conservatives would give back spending powers to local councils and increase their power to block planning applications.

The Tories would no longer cap the expenditure of local councils if they come back to power, relying instead on local electorates to punish councils which spend too much.

And they would shake up the planning system to help local councils keep development in check, allowing local people the right of appeal.

Shadow local government minister Nigel Waterson said Britain needed a planning system that is "sensitive to local needs and devolves power to local communities."

He promised to end national housebuilding targets and to weaken the power of the secretary of state to overturn local planning decisions.

But Labour said such a move would be "crazy," and a blow to strategic planning.

Steve Bullock, Labour group spokesman on the Local Government Association, said that without reserve powers for central government, "Tory backwoodsmen would take no notice of what is happening in the rest of the world."

The Conservatives also said they would the abolish Labour's plans for regional assemblies and continue their fight to stop Labour from repealing Section 28, which bans teaching about homosexuality in schools.

"The Conservative Party has spoken up for the common sense instincts of the British people," Mr Waterson said

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See also:

02 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Hague promises inner-city revival
29 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Ban 'identikit' new homes: Hague
12 Jun 00 | UK Politics
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