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Unformatted text preview: rnment’s commitment in principle to regional government did
not produce much action between 1997 and 2001. In its 2001 General Election Manifesto, Labour undertook that elected
regional assemblies could be established in those cases where a double condition was satisfied: there is majority
support in a referendum; and there is a predominance of single-tier local government (a condition satisfied in the North
East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside, and, marginally, the West Midlands). A White Paper has been promised,
though that would have to be followed by primary legislation to authorize such referendums. This leisurely approach is
indicative of contrasting views within the Government, in relation to, inter alia: the interface with local authorities; the
electoral system; the possible effect on the Government’s centralized approach to public service delivery (perhaps the
most high profile priority of its second term); and the interface with the business-led Regional Development Agencies
(the highest profile English regional measure of its first term). It remains unclear whether the response to devolution in
the territories will be a new emphasis on England as a unit, or a focus on at least some regions.
Fourthly, there is an urgent need for the United Kingdom to be open to learning from other jurisdictions, though this
would be contrary to inclination and history. There is clearly relevant experience in countries such as Canada and
Australia (where there is a shared institutional heritage) and Germany and Spain (where EU membership provides
common context). As the literature shows, policy transfer and lesson-drawing are not simple matters (Dogan and
Pelassy, 1990, Rose, 1993). However, that difficulty does not justify insularity. When commenting on a draft of Heald’s
(1980) monograph, the late Russell Mathews, a prominent figure in Australian policy and practice on fiscal federalism,
observed that the British were characteristically obsessed with re-inventing the wheel. Fortunately, such attitudes will be
more difficult to sustain in a more integrated world and with devolved institutions in place. 277 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance REFERENCES
Bell, D., S. Dow, D. King and N. Massie, (1996), Financing Devolution, Hume Papers on Public Policy, Vol. 4, No. 2,
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press).
Besley, T., I. Preston and M. Ridge, (1997), 'Fiscal anarchy in the UK: modelling poll tax non-compliance', Journal of
Public Economics, Vol. 64, No. 2, pp. 137-52.
Blow, L., J. Hall and S. Smith, (1996), 'Financing Regional Government in Britain', IFS Commentary No 54, (London:
Institute for Fiscal Studies).
Boadway, R. and R. Watts, (2000), Fiscal federalism in Canada, (Kingston, Ontario: Institute of Intergovernmental
Relations, Queen's University).
Cameron, G. and J. Muellbauer, (2000), 'Earnings biases in the United Kingdom Regional Accounts: some economic
policy and research implications', Economic Journal, Vol. 110, No. 464, pp. 412-29.
Cross, R., M. Danson, A. Dow, H. Gibson et al., (2001)...
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