“We should scrap the unloved East of England Regional Assembly and return its powers over housing and planning to Hertfordshire County and District Councils,? Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, told John Prescott in Parliament. Following the Deputy Prime Minister?s report on the humiliating referendum defeat by 4 votes to 1 of his plan for an elected Assembly in the North East, Peter Lilley said “a referendum in Hertfordshire would probably reject the East of England Assembly by nearer 40 to 1. People resent the transfer of power from local authorities to a remote regional authority which is using those powers to impose wholly unwelcome housing targets on Hertfordshire.?
Peter Lilley said: “Our present regional chamber ? the self-styled East of England Regional Assembly ? is not directly elected but made up of officials, councillors, and appointed ?community stakeholders?. It covers a huge area including Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and is based near Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk.
“That authority?s efforts to impose massive housing targets on Hertfordshire are unacceptable to the people of Hertfordshire but we are powerless to stop them. When Hertfordshire had those powers and a Lab/LibDem majority on the County Council decided to build 10,000 houses on our Green Belt, local voters were able to defeat it at the ballot box and change the policy. We want those powers back with our elected local councils so that we can determine our own future.
“This vote in the North East confirms that people do not want an expensive extra layer of regional government. It is less democratic and more remote. The existing, unelected East of England Regional Assembly is an expensive talking shop and should be shut down. The money saved should be spent on frontline services.
“The next Conservative Government will scrap the existing regional chambers, abolish regional planning, and implement real decentralisation, restoring power to local people away from Whitehall and its regional quangos. We will give more power and control to people who really know what is best for themselves, their families and their local communities.?
Note to Editors: Extract from Hansard for 8th November attached
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Does the Deputy Prime Minister realise that, if a referendum were held in the east of England in general, and Hertfordshire in particular, it would be defeated not by four to one but by 40 to one? Does he realise that that is because people resent the transfer of power that has already taken place from local authorities to a more remote and distant regional authority and the efforts by that authority to impose housing targets on Hertfordshire that are wholly unwelcome to its residents? Previously, when Hertfordshire had the opportunity to take such decisions, and a Lib-Lab county council tried to impose building on the green belt, we were able to defeat it at the ballot box and change the policy. We want those powers back at county level, so that we can determine our own future.