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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July, 2003, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Assembly opponents ready for fight
Ballot box
Local people in Yorkshire will get their say in the Autumn
Opponents of a regional government for the Yorkshire and Humber region are launching a campaign against the proposals.

The "Yorkshire Says No" group hope to convince the public to vote against a regional assembly in the referendum planned for Autumn 2004.

An elected regional assembly would have responsibility for areas such as transport, housing, sport and economic regeneration.

But opponents say it would be lacking in real power and simply cost too much to run.

Countdown to referendum...
June 2003: John Prescott announces the Governments regional assembly proposals
September 2004: Draft bill outlining assembly powers is expected
October 2004: Referendums expected in Yorkshire, North West and North East
Campaign director John Watson told BBC News Online: "If people vote yes then what they will get is another layer of government.

"The problem is, we don't actually know what a Yorkshire Parliament would do.

"What people want is more nurses and police on the streets. The question is, will this regional assembly deliver that?"

Mr Watson says the government estimates the assembly would have about 30 members, a network of support staff and an administration structure costing an estimated 25m.

Limited powers

He added: "The powers we do know it will have are so tiny it simply doesn't justify its expenditure.

"After devolution in Scotland and Wales there is a big argument that the English regions will miss out unless they can too.

"The problem is, what's on offer just is not the same.

"The new assembly would only be responsible for about 2% of public expenditure in this region, which doesn't really justify another layer of bureaucracy."

John Prescott
John Prescott announced plans for a referendum in June
Moves to form the campaign were started by Mr Watson over concerns raised by the business community, and he plans an official launch later in the year.

He estimates that 85% of the Yorkshire business community are in support along with 80% of the local Conservative party, in which he is a senior figure.

Although he is confident the majority of the public will support the "no" vote, Mr Watson says there is much campaigning to do.

He added: "The truth is so many people know so little about the issue the majority of people haven't made up their mind yet."

The "Campaign for Yorkshire" has been seeking public support for an elected regional assembly for a number of years.

But rather than dismiss the views of their opponents, the "yes" group has welcomed them as a chance to engage in healthy debate on the issue.

Strong opinions

Director Jane Thomas said: "We're glad there is an organisation promoting an alternative view to ours.

"It demonstrates the benefits of debating matters affecting our future at a regional level.

"We feel very strongly that it is the people of this region that should be making the decisions about our future here in Yorkshire, not politicians."

A draft bill outlining the powers of northern regional assemblies is expected in Summer 2004.

Referendums are due to follow in the North West, North East and Yorkshire in October.




SEE ALSO:
Regions get vote on own parliaments
16 Jun 03  |  Politics
Labour faces tough Yorkshire fight
07 Apr 03  |  England


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