HC Deb 16 October 2002 vol 390 c306
6. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

What recent representations he has received from representatives of county councils about the future roles, functions and responsibilities of these councils; and if he will make a statement. [71954]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Christopher Leslie)

Ministers are in regular dialogue with county council leaders and chief executives on a wide range of issues, including finance, planning and, more recently, the White Paper on regional governance.

Mr. Luff

The Deputy Prime Minister is planning to sideline Worcestershire county council and other county councils on planning. He is planning to fine Worcestershire county council social services department if it does not do what the Government want. The Secretary of State for Education and Skills is bypassing Worcestershire local education authority and controlling schools direct from Whitehall. The Deputy Prime Minister is planning to perpetuate the unfair funding of Worcestershire county council. He is also planning to abolish Worcestershire country council to create the monstrous regional governments. Our county councils have served us well for so long. What does he have against them?

Mr. Leslie

The hon. Gentleman should calm down and take a breath. There are no plans and no threats to county councils. Indeed, in terms of regional government, the Boundary Committee for England has not precluded letting county councils be unitary authorities. We should let the people choose in a referendum what to do about regional government.