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North west says no to 'transport anoraks'


NORTH WEST politicians have dumped transport secretary Alistair Darling's plan for a regional transport board and instead formed an executive board of senior local politicians.

They believe such a system is more democratic and will produce more workable policies.

Darling's plan was for regional transport boards (RTBs) to be set up in each English region to decide on priorities for spending transport cash. This must include all local authority road maintenance, smaller local transport schemes and Highways Agency schemes of regional importance (NCE 2 December 2004).

The make up of the boards was not specifi d, but it was thought they would include representatives from the regional assembly, regional development agency and transport experts.

The North West has shunned this plan and instead set up an executive board made up of three senior politicians drawn from the regional assembly representing each of its five subregions. The executive board will combine policies on transport, housing and planning.

'What we want to do via the executive board is abolish the regional housing board and not set up a transport board, ' said Peter Smith, past chairman of the North West Regional Assembly and current chairman of the English Regions Network, an umbrella body of the eight English regions. Smith was speaking at a Labour party conference fringe meeting.

'We're saying there should be one body, dominated by key local authority players - not a separate body of transport anoraks - giving it a political legitimacy and building on the focus of each authority, ' said Smith.

Each sub-region can choose its three members, but they must be heads of their respective authority. The North West Regional Development Agency can be there, but only if it sends its chief executive or chairman.

The board meets for the first time on Friday.

The move has won the approval of the Offi e of the Deputy Prime Minister.

'To deliver regional economic prosperity we need the regions themselves to have local decision making, ' planning minister Yvette Cooper told a Labour Party conference fringe meeting last month.

'Regional assemblies have got to be effective if they are going to make key decisions and hold regional development agencies to account. This is why we are interested in the approach that some assemblies are taking, ' she said.

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