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.

“YES Lancashire”

Sir Bill Taylor has been the Leader of Blackburn with Darwen unitary Council for two years. Prior to that he was Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Education and Chair of the Education for two years, was Mayor in 1989 and Deputy Mayor in 1990 and has been a Councillor for 23 years. He is also election agent for Jack Straw MP, Foreign Secretary. In his private life he is a senior youth worker for Lancashire County Council, he is married with two children.

I strongly support an elected Regional Assembly for the North West for three reasons,

1. It will devolve decision making from London and the South East to the Northern Regions of this Country,
2. It will begin to address the social and economic divide between London and the South East and the North of England
3. It will bring about unitary local government of which I am a strong advocate giving the experiences of Blackburn with Darwen which became a unitary authority five years ago

I will go in to more detail about each of these reasons.

Devolving Power – Britain is one of the most centralised countries in Western Europe and North America, I believe the best decisions are made by people who are affected by them and with the local knowledge to ensure they meet the needs of their communities. One of the reasons why there are fewer people involved in local politics is that the powers of local authorities in the region have been gradually sucked to the national level. Why should a decision on which roads in Blackburn get financed be taken in London, why should a decision about whether Blackburn gets extra money for dealing with its terrible housing problems be taken in London. The priorities for the region should be set by the people of the region. An elected regional assembly would give powers to make these decisions to the people of the North West.

I welcome the devolution to Wales and Scotland and more recently to the Greater London assembly. It seems only equitable that the successes of these bodies should be transferred to the rest of England otherwise there is a major democratic deficit, and the North of England will fall even further behind.

Social & Economic Divide – I believe for the North to be a success it needs to have a strong voice to campaign for additional resources and investment to redevelop and regenerate its economy. It is only by doing this that other social deprivation indicators such as poor health, housing and educational standards can be addressed. The North has been held back by the decision makers being based in the South East of this country, does anybody imagine that the crucial hi-tech science laboratory at Daresbury would have been moved to the South of England with all its impact on skills, jobs and higher education, if the decision had been made in the North West. Would the appalling transport routes of the M6 and the west coast main line been left to decline to there present appalling standards if civil servants had to travel on them every day. Scotland and Wales in particular have demonstrated how economic success can be built upon devolved government, which promotes strong regional economic policy, which means democratic accountability for the government offices within the regions and the regional development agencies. The ability to integrate the economic social transport and environmental agendas can best be done at regional level to get the added value from bringing together these current national silos in to a programme which hits agreed regional priorities.

Unitary Local Government – This will come about as a consequence of an elected Regional Assembly so ensuring there are no unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. Unitary local government brings power and decision making on crucial services such as education, social services, highways and regeneration closer to the communities. The experience of Blackburn with Darwen, which became a unitary five years ago, shows the benefit of this. Services taken over by Blackburn with Darwen from the county were failing eg social services and education; they are now top performing three star services. The service to the citizens in these areas has significantly improved. Our neighbourhood co-ordination and delivery of services such as housing and environmental services are far better integrated with the new services that were brought into the borough. This has provided the clear lines of communication where citizens know who provide all their services and they can hold politicians to account. We have done away with confusion and duplication, improved service delivery, brought new jobs to the town and radically upgraded the environment and infrastructure, which had been neglected by the previous larger and more remote County Council structure.

This was recognised when in 2002 we were named as the Council of the Year and 2003 named after the Comprehensive Performance Assessment as one of the 22 best performing councils in the country, one of only three in the North West. I believe all of the citizens of the North deserve the same opportunities of improved and accountable services that the people of Blackburn with Darwen have enjoyed.

In conclusion, I believe there are strong reasons for a move towards an elected regional assembly, I believe the powers of the regional assembly are worth having now, but will also provide a firm foundation to gather greater powers to the regions over the next 10 years. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity if missed now it will not reoccur for at least a generation. Lets seize this opportunity, use it as a foundation for further progress and begin the process of radically transforming for the better the lives of our citizens.

The Northwest Development Agency is responsible for the sustainable economic development and regeneration of England's Northwest and has 5 key priorities: Business Development, Regeneration, Skills & Employment, Infrastructure and Image.
NWRA represent the views of all their stakeholders in the region and promote their interests at a regional strategic level within the North West Regional Assembly.
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