Tories repeat call for regional strategy abolition

Regional spatial and economic strategies should be scrapped and replaced with county-level planning, a shadow minister has said.

Shadow communities minister Eric Pickles told "The basic planning unit should be the county."

But he allowed that there is scope for cross-county collaboration, adding: "The idea is to focus on issues, not geography."

The comments followed a speech to the Conservative party conference in Blackpool yesterday (Sunday), when Pickles said a Tory-led government would abolish the "TLAs" - three-letter acronyms.

Examples, he said, would include regional spatial strategies, regional economic strategies and market renewal pathfinders - a programme that has already come in for much Tory criticism.

At a local government question time hosted by the Local Government Association, Pickles pledged to "take the R out of the RDAs".

"What we actually need is help in a specific area, for a specific time that does specific work and then moves on. Now it's about grand projects".

Pickles also attacked the Labour government's project of encouraging the unification of councils, after an audience member complained about the ongoing battles over the subject in Cheshire.

Pickles said: "I see no reason why we should throw millions of pounds at a re-organisation that doesn't provide a single extra police officer, teacher or social worker"

Dermot Finch, director of the Centre for Cities think tank, said the unificiation issue is "all a bit of a red herring."

He said: "In the scheme of things, whether you're uniform or not you should work across a wider area with other councils."

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