'Increase clout of regional authority'

March 15, 2002

Learning and skills should become the responsibility of beefed-up regional governments, according to a Liberal Democrat blueprint for devolution in England.

Party members, who met in Manchester at the weekend for their spring conference, heard that directly elected regional authorities ought to have the option to take over central government quangos such as the Learning and Skills Council and its 47 sub-regional offices.

The national and sub-regional LSCs were set up last year. The network, which has a £7.3 billion budget for next year, funds and plans post-16 education, excluding higher education, in colleges.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat spokesman on transport, local government and the regions, launched the party's regional government paper "Empowering the People" last week. Mr Foster described English regional government as confused, expensive and unresponsive.

He called for a Regional Powers Act under which directly elected regional authorities would have the option of taking on central government powers. These would include certain economic activities, training, housing planning, transport, sport, emergency services and health. He said it would be up to the authorities which powers they wished to take on.

Details: www.libdems.org.uk

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