Main Issues Forum
Regional Referendum for North West to decide whether to have an "Elected Regional Assembly.
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Regional Referendum for North West to decide whether to have an Elected Regional Assembly.

We are the Campaign against North West Regional Government. We want to encourage people in the North West to vote ‘No' to the plans for a directly elected Regional Assembly and when they are put to a Referendum in the Autumn of 2004 we want to let the people here know what are the true implications of Regional Government for the way we are governed, and the true cost to us all of what is being proposed.
We have attracted the support from many politicians of all Parties, Members of Parliament, Councillors and business figures from across the whole region. Our cross-party and cross-community support is symbolised by the fact that the Chairman is Sir David Trippier, a well known businessman in the North West and former Conservative Minister, with the Labour MP from Merseyside, George Howarth, Sir Cyril Smith, the best known Liberal Democrat in the Region and George Osborne the Conservative MP for Tatton as Vice Chairmen.

Sir David said “Our opposition to the proposed assembly stems from serious concerns that it would mean the end of the historic counties of Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire and undermine the growing movement towards city-wide Regional Government. It would create a new and costly layer of bureaucracy, paid for by the taxpayers and business of the North West. It would have no real public support.

Our objectives are to raise funds, conduct research and employ such support staff as may be appropriate and to organise a campaign aimed towards delivering a ‘No' vote in the referendum held to establish a North West Assembly.

The North West is made up of people proud to call themselves Mancunians, Liverpudlians, Lancastrians, and people proud to say that they come from Cheshire and Cumbria. None of these people feel they are North Westerners. The North West Administrative Region only exists on a map in Whitehall. It does not exist in the hearts and minds of the people of the North West. These are not foundations upon which to build a new tier of democratic government.”

Sir David went on to say “Even according to the Government's own cautious estimates a regional assembly will be a hugely expensive burden for taxpayers in the North West. It will cost at least £30m to set it up, while the cost of abolishing Cheshire , Cumbria or Lancashire is likely to be higher.”

Then there are annual running costs of this new layer of politicians. In the words of Government Minister, Christopher Leslie MP: “We estimate that the running costs of an Assembly will be around £25m a year. About £5m will be directly offset because staff will be transferring from existing bodies, such as the Region's Government Office. The remaining £20m or so includes the costs of staff to support Assembly Members, pay off the Members, accommodation costs and provision for Assembly elections” (Letter December 2002). All these costs will be paid by the Council taxpayers in the North West. It will not come from Whitehall.

Why We Know Almost No One Wants Regional Government
When John Prescott announced on 16 th June 2003 that he was going to hold a referendum, he claimed that there was a ‘significant and widespread interest' among the people of the North West in Regional Government. Yet when the Government asked the 7 million people who live in our region what they thought, just 3,947 people and organisations responded. In fact, thanks to the Government's own exercise, we know that just 0.03 per cent of the whole population of the North West actively want a referendum on regional government.

Why We Know Regional Government Will be Un-Democratic
The Government says that the North West Elected Regional Assembly will be made up of between 25 to 35 members, and hint that it is likely to be just 25 members. That means that the whole of Greater Manchester could have just two Assembly members. The same is true of Cheshire. Where is the local democracy in that?

City regions like Merseyside and Greater Manchester will find their voice is diminished. The counties and rural areas will find it difficult to be heard at all. As the National Farming Union says: “there is every reason for the farming and rural community to fear that its voice will be swamped in an Assembly” (24 th June 2002).

The Assembly members will be elected by a proportional system known as the Additional Member System. This will strengthen the hand of smaller parties and make coalition government almost inevitable. It is also a sad fact that extremist parties like the BNP could win a seat,. That would be bad for the reputation of the whole region.

Why We Know Regional Government Will Centralise Power
Government Minister, Lord Rooker, has said that “there will be no new powers” for Regional Assemblies; they will simply be a “different way of scrutinising the vast amounts of government expenditure” (House of Lords, 30 th April 2003).

What is more likely is that powers will be transferred up, from local government to the Regional Assembly

Sir David appeals to the people of the North West Region
“It is clear from the support we are already receiving that there is widespread opposition to the plans for a directly elected Regional Assembly.I urge all those who feel that this Assembly will be a toothless and very costly talking shop to join our Campaign to put a stop to this silliness”.

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