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”.