The Tories pledged yesterday to scrap regional assemblies in England and devolve more powers to local communities.

Caroline Spelman gave the vow to cheers and applause at the party's conference in Bournemouth. She said local councillors were best placed to effect change.

But, under Labour's "straitjacket", decisionmaking was being taken further away from local communities under the "guise of regionalism". She said: "The politicians closest to their communities are local councillors who rub shoulders with their constituents daily."

A Conservative government would abolish regional assemblies which undermine local authorities, she said.

Mrs Spelman said the policy allowed Ministers to "steam-roller" their will through, regardless of local opinion and a good place to start in restoring the balance was abolishing the un-elected regional assemblies.