Tory Re-think on Regional Tier of Local Government?

The Northern Echo reports that Nottinghamshire Conservative MP and Shadow Secretary for Business Ken Clarke has ordered a review of Conservative policy on Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).

The article states that this has come about following concerns raised by the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce with regard to "scrapping" the RDAs.

However, actual published Conservative policy suggests they weren't going to entirely scrap them anyway, they were mainly going to devolve their planning, regional spacial strategy and housing powers to councils. Given that the RSS sets priorities for regional investment and transport, perhaps this is the bone of contention.

The CBI represents 'big business' in the UK, with 80% of FTSE 100 companies signed up as members. The Chambers of Commerce represent business of all sizes, and is comprised of various regional branches. Large national and international firms are usually well represented at board level.

RDAs serve as a tier of local government above local councils, and currently have wide-ranging powers over planning and funneling government grants to regions. Local businesses, often Chamber of Commerce members, are usually represented on the LGA boards, along with local authorities, trade unions and the voluntary sector. Unlike at LA level, representatives are not directly elected by the public.

Various newspaper reports have suggested that Tory plans to move powers away from RDAs and towards local authorities is motivated by the fact that the Conservative Party is currently better represented at LA level than at RDA level. Current Conservative plans for LA's include greater accountability and transparency, while their plans for accountability and transparency at RDA level are currently less clear.