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No elections for Broads authority

PUBLISHED: 09:26 01 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:17 06 July 2010

A campaign to force changes to the way the Broads Authority and its sister national parks are run has failed after a government minister said he would not bring in laws to introduce direct elections.

A campaign to force changes to the way the Broads Authority and its sister national parks are run has failed after a government minister said he would not bring in laws to introduce direct elections.

There have been lengthy attempts to ensure the authority management board contains at least some people elected directly to their posts. At the moment, they are all appointed.

The eight English national parks and the Broads Authority, which is referred to as a “member of the national parks family” without having the full status, have been accused of operating unaccountably in the past because of the status of their boards.

Although many of the appointees are democratically elected to other authorities, many people feel the Broads Authority would appear more accountable if a proportion of members was elected directly.

Such elections are held in the Scottish national parks, where a fifth of members are elected every few years. This fact has been used by supporters of the direct elections concept in England as a key part to their argument.

But Huw Irranca-Davies, minister for the natural and marine environment, has confirmed direct elections will not be introduced.

“I will give my formal response before the summer recess,” said Mr Irranca-Davies. “I anticipate that my response will focus on alternative ways for ensuring that all the national park and broads authorities are as responsive as the best of these authorities, rather than on legislating for direct elections.”

Last year, the issue prompted one of the largest responses ever to a public consultation by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who has been a key player in the lobby for direct elections.

About 500 constituents wrote to Mr Lamb to show an overwhelming support for his stance - at the time he commented that the size of this reaction was far more than a typical “bread and butter” issue such as education or health.

Yesterday, Mr Lamb said: “The answer to direct elections is 'no' and I am deeply disappointed and angry that the government has missed this opportunity to democratise an unaccountable quango.

“People had been extremely clear they wanted to see direct elections - only one of the hundreds of people who responded to my consultation was against direct elections.

“Gordon Brown talked about enhancing democracy and making public bodies more accountable when he came to power, yet when they had a golden opportunity to do just that and tackle the problems of a quango state, they flunk it.”

Mr Lamb said he planned to revisit the issue after the next general election.

The Broads Authority made its stance clear on the issue at the end of last year, when in a report to the authority, chief executive John Packman argued that “the present system has worked well and ought not lightly be discarded”.

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