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Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Lib Dems unveil devolution plans
Leeds Town Hall
Cities like Leeds could become regional centres of power
Power should be devolved to the English regions, say Liberal Democrats who accuse the UK Government of "control freak" tendencies.

Don Foster, the party's environment spokesman, stressed that regional voters should be "pulling the strings" and said the devolution proposal would reduce bureaucracy.

Outlining the Lib Dems' policy on elected regional assemblies for England, Mr Foster said regional assemblies would be funded by central government and through tax-varying powers.

Money would be saved in the long run, he said, by sacking the politicians running quangos and redistributing the administrative resources needed to run them.

Don Foster MP
Don Foster: Central government has 'control freak' tendencies

Quangos are committees with governmental powers which are run by unelected members appointed by central government.

"Plans are already well advanced in the north east, the north west and in the Midlands, but neither the Labour government nor the Tory opposition are keen to let power slip from their hands," he said.

"This is not adding another tier of government - it is reducing central government with its 'control freak' tendencies and releasing the energy and potential that is pent up in our regions," said Mr Foster.

He said grassroots government would "democratise... bureaucratic quangos" in the regions, bringing them "under the scrutiny of elected government".

The Lib Dem plan would see "regional assemblies taking over the budgets of all the quangos and regional government offices that came under their control".

Archie Norman, shadow secretary of state for environment, transport and the regions, later said the proposals would lead to increased local taxation equal to a 9p increase in the basic rate of income tax.

"The Liberal Democrats' solution to every problem is higher taxation," he said.

"Behind their rhetoric about regionalism, they are planning a new local income tax and a new regional income tax in addition to their proposals for higher national income tax."

"Their plans would be the equivalent of at least an extra 9p in the pound on income tax bills.

"People do not want to pay for another layer of politicians, they want better and more efficient government, with real powers for local councils not regional talking shops.

"The only people who will benefit from the Liberal Democrats' plans for costly and unwanted regionalism will be bureaucrats in the Inland Revenue."

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See also:

18 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Call to examine 'English question'
12 Apr 00 | UK Politics
New voice for English regions
17 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Labour 'divided' on English devolution
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