'Foolish' to move on shake-up, MP

PUBLISHED: 16:22 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:52 10 June 2010

EAST Devon MP Hugo Swire has asked the Government to reexamine its drive towards forcing a unitary authority on Devon - because of the economic downturn. Mr Swire outlined his concerns in the Local Government Debate which was held at Westminster last week

EAST Devon MP Hugo Swire has asked the Government to reexamine its drive towards forcing a unitary authority on Devon - because of the economic downturn.Mr Swire outlined his concerns in the Local Government Debate which was held at Westminster last week.The proposal, which involves Torbay and Plymouth remaining unchanged and for the rest of Devon, including the county capital Exeter to be under one new unitary authority, does not have the East Devon MP's support.Mr Swire said that in a time of economic uncertainty it would be even more foolish to proceed. "When the minister talked about the credit crunch, he was perhaps underestimating the effect that the economic downturn will have on the delivery of services," he said. "This is not the time to look at changing local government in my county of Devon. To paraphrase what the Minister for Local Government said at the start of the debate, local government should do what is written on the tin. "In Devon, it is working: it could do better, but the two-tier enhanced system is by far the best and most affordable. In these times of economic uncertainty, affordability must become the key criterion."In the debate Mr Swire also criticised the accountability of regional ministers, calling them "phantoms.""It seems to me that regional ministers are phantom ministers. In my case, the Minister for the South West, the hon. Member for Exeter (Ben Bradshaw), has a pretty full-time job, I should imagine, at the Department of Health. "There is no way in which one can hold a regional minister to account in his capacity as regional minister. "He is not accountable to Parliament and I do not believe that he has an additional secretariat provided by Parliament to do his job. If he is a spokesman for the south west, why do we not hear him speaking up for the south west a little more than he does? I am not singling out the Minister for the south west - I would make the same comment about every regional minister.

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