Following the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement (John Prescott) in the House
of Commons at 12.30 today (9th May) when he said that in those regions
planning to hold a referendum for an elected Regional Assembly there will be
a review of local government structures and that there should be "a fully
unitary system of local government", Michael Fabricant says "This move
will take power further away from local people".
Michael explains: "A unitary authority structure envisaged by John Prescott
would mean the dissolution of Staffordshire County Council and the creation
of a unitary authority in which Lichfield and Burntwood would be just a
part. Lichfield District Council would be considered too small to form a
unitary authority taking on some of the work of the County, so it would have
to be merged with other authorities such as Tamworth and South East
Staffordshire which includes Burton. Local Government headquarters will
inevitably move away from Lichfield to either Tamworth or Burton of further.
Meanwhile, real power would lie with the Regional Assembly in Birmingham.
This would inevitably lead to local money and power being sucked into the
big city conurbation of Birmingham and the Black Country.
"Even though it is Labour controlled, I believe Staffordshire County
Council has fought hard for extra resources from this Government. I have
not always agreed with the County’s priorities, but the Council has put
Staffordshire first. This would not be the case with a Regional Assembly
based in the centre of Birmingham or a weakened local authority based away
from Lichfield and Burntwood.
"I now call on local District and County councillors whether they be Labour,
Liberal, independent, or Conservative to join me and stand up for the rights
of local people to have truly local government.
"All the campaigns to stop building on land between Lichfield and Sutton
Coldfield and other areas to stop Lichfield becoming part of a grey
amorphous city with Birmingham City Hall at its centre will come to nought
if this change comes through".
It is interesting to note that the Government White Paper on these changes
contains a map on page 74 showing the huge West Midlands Region which would
be governed by the Assembly. Lichfield and Burntwood are omitted from the
map even though smaller towns such as Rugeley are shown. "It’s as if the
Government want to wipe Lichfield and Burntwood off the political map; not
just metaphorically, but literally too!" adds Michael Fabricant.