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Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
'Red tape' warning on assemblies plan
The Angel of the North, near Gateshead
A BBC poll found people in the North East want an assembly
Government plans for regional assemblies in England have come under attack from opposition parties.

On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott indicated his support for devolution in the English regions ahead of a White Paper next week.

But the Conservatives warn the move will create an unnecessary and expensive extra tier of government.

Assemblies will decentralise power, strengthen democracy and give people a greater say and their own political voice

John Prescott

And the Liberal Democrats say the assemblies will be pointless unless they are given fully devolved powers.

Shadow local government secretary Theresa May said that rather than giving more power to communities, the assemblies would take it away.

They would be "an expensive bureaucracy and an extra tier of government".

"What people want is politicians who are in touch and respond to the issues that matter - not another tier of government or a new type of politician," she said.

'Democratic deficit'

Liberal Democrat local government spokesman Adrian Sanders said: "The Labour government can make countless promises about regional assemblies, but unless they are genuinely willing to devolve power, these promises are simply empty words."

Mr Prescott said it was his long-held political dream to end what he called the "democratic deficit" in the country.

The plans are seen as a way of tackling voter apathy in the wake of another low turnout in the local elections.

The White Paper being published on Thursday will offer each region a referendum on elected regional assemblies, similar to devolution in Scotland and Wales.

John Prescott
Assemblies are Precott's 'political dream'

In a speech to Chancellor Gordon Brown's constituency dinner in Scotland on Friday, Mr Prescott said: "The choice of regional government for England in my view completes the circle.

"It will bring the whole devolution agenda together - putting in place the last piece of the framework for a new constitutional settlement for the whole of the UK.

"What we are offering the English regions is different from Scotland and that's as it should be.

"But the guiding principles and the objectives are the same as they were for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - to decentralise power, strengthen democracy and give people a greater say and their own political voice.

"This will be the conclusion of a political dream I have held for decades."

See also:

30 Mar 01 | UK Politics
North-south split persists: Mandelson
30 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Lib Dems unveil devolution plans
16 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Regional policy 'confusion' criticised
05 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Blair: North-South divide 'a myth'
17 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Labour 'divided' on English devolution
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