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THE NORTH WANTS ACTION NOW, CANDIDATES ARE TOLD

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Election candidates across the North are being urged to make the creation of regional government coupled with a pow...
Election candidates across the North are being urged to make the creation of regional government coupled with a powerful regional development agency one of their top priorities if they win seats at Westminster on May 1st.

'The North Says Now' is the title of a 'Regional Manifesto' being sent to candidates in constituencies throughout the region by the North of England Assembly of Local Authorities, which is already well advanced in preparing for the move to regional government.

John McCormack, who chairs the assembly, described as 'very welcome and very significant' the results of a survey of the main parties' candidates in 36 Northern constituencies which showed a large majority back the establishment of regional government.

In his introduction to the NEA manifesto cllr McCormack stresses the 'strong desire, indicated from many different interests and sectors within the region, for the North to have a direct involvement in shaping its own future, initially through a representative regional chamber and subsequently through a directly-elected regional assembly.

'The NEA, with its many partners in the region, is now well-advanced in preparing for the initial move to a regional chamber and the creation of a powerful regional development agency, able to harness all the available resources to create the new investment and employment opportunities which are so vital for our future economic prosperity.'

The manifesto says the key functions of the Regional Chamber would include:

-- The creation of a regional development agency

-- The setting of priorities for funding and action across strategic issues including economic development, liaison with Europe, transport, health, land use planning, environmental protection, the arts, tourism and leisure

-- Co-operation with measures to establish arrangements for the proper democratic accountability of all those public spending organisations having regional programmes, in terms of their strategies, policy directions and spending priorities.

-- Preparing for the next stage of regional government - the establishment of a directly-elected assembly at the earliest possible date, accepting that such a development must have the support of the region it will serve.

It stresses that the NEA is firmly committed to introducing regional government on a 'zero cost' basis and that this can be achieved through streamlining 'the current cumbersome and complex arrangements, with a multitude of different bureaucracies.'

Setting out the case for a regional development agency, the manifesto emphasises that it is strongly supported within the North's community. Both the regional chairman of the CBI and the president of the regional chamber of commerce have given it their public support and both organisations, together with the trade union movement, are on the working party which is drawing up detailed proposals.

Said cllr McCormack: 'Together with many others in the region, the NEA has been arguing the need for regional government for the last decade and what we are stressing to the political parties in this manifesto is that the North wants action and wants it now.

'Certainly the response from the main party candidates in the region is both very welcome and very significant. Out of 104 who responded to the survey just published, 65 made clear their support for regional government.

'We hope that the manifesto will be of interest to those candidates already convinced of the case and will persuade others that they should now recognise the overwhelming desire of the region to have real control over its destiny and that it can be achieved in a way which, far from increasing costs, will make more efficient, more effective and more accountable use of resources.'

A copy of the 'North Says Now!' manifesto being distributed to candidates throughout the region follows.

THE NORTH SAYS NOW! A MANIFESTO FOR REGIONAL GOVERNMENT

The North of England Assembly of Local Authorities has been one of the prime advocates of Regional Government for the Northern Region. It believes that its views reflect the strong desire, indicated from many different interests and sectors within the Region, for the North to have a direct involvement in shaping its own future, initially through a representative Regional Chamber and subsequently through a directly-elected Regional Assembly.

The NEA, with its many partners in the Region, is now well-advanced in preparing for the initial move to a Regional Chamber and the creation of a powerful Regional Development Agency, able to harness all the available resources to create the new investment and employment opportunities which are so vital for our future economic prosperity. We believe that those MPs elected to represent the North at Westminster on May 1st should recognise that supporting the entire Region to achieve that first important step must be one of their major priorities when they take their seats in the House of Commons. In this Manifesto for the North we are setting out to Election Candidates the key principles which we believe should guide the establishment of a Regional Chamber and Regional Development Agency.

Councillor John McCormack, Chairman, North of England Assembly of Local Authorities

INTRODUCTION

In 1991/92 the Assembly (then known as the Northern Regional Councils Association) adopted the following principles for the implementation of Regional Government in England:

Devolution of power:

-- should be outward from the centre; and -should not take power away from local government

Subsidiarity:

-- service delivery should be at the most appropriate level of operation

Accountability:

-- democratic accountability for governance of regions should be strengthened

Implementation:

-- should be as speedy as possible

-- should make use of secondary legislation and administrative action as well as differential primary legislation

In July 1995 the NEA agreed a consultation document on Regional Government which was circulated to regional partners, MPs, MEPsand others both inside and outside the region. The response to the consultation made a substantial contribution to the Assembly's discussions and the formulation of its 'Prospectus' documents for a Regional Chamber and Regional Development Agency which were published in December last year.

THE REGIONAL CHAMBER

The NEA believes that the Northern Region is uniquely well- placed to move rapidly to the establishment of a Regional Chamber, initially composed of elected members nominated by their own local authorities.

The key functions of a regional Chamber would include:

-- The creation of a Regional Development Agency The setting of priorities for funding and action across strategic issues including economic development, liaison with Europe, transport, health, land use planning, environmental protection, the arts, tourism and leisure.

-- Co-operation with measures to establish arrangements for the proper democratic accountability of all those public spending organisations having regional programmes, in terms of their strategies, policy directions and spending priorities.

-- Preparing for the next stage of Regional Government the establishment of a directly-elected Assembly at the earliest possible date, accepting that such a development must have the support of the Region it will serve. It should be emphasised that the NEA is already active in many of the key areas which would come under the direction of the Regional Chamber. For example it has strong links with the European Union and Commission and, together with the Northern Development Company and the Regions Training and Enterprise Councils, initiated the establishment of the North of England office in Brussels.

The Assembly takes the view that the North of England Region comprises the county areas of Cumbria, Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and the area of the former Cleveland County. It would strongly urge an incoming government to adopt this as the area to be served by the new Regional Chamber and Regional Development Agency.

The NEA is firmly committed to view that the introduction of a Regional Chamber must be achieved on a zero cost basis and is convinced that this can be achieved through the much improved cohesion and co-ordination which would result. Indeed it believes that the stream lining of the current cumbersome and complex arrangements, with a multitude of different bureaucracies, would deliver much improved value for money, efficiency and effectiveness.

THE REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

The establishment of a powerful RDA offers the North an opportunity to address long-standing concerns over the lack of adequate co-ordination and cohesion between the various organisations dispensing public funds on economic development and regeneration activities. Valuable resources are currently wasted in a 'competition' approach where projects chase funding-related initiatives rather than addressing regional needs and there is widespread duplication of effort and expenditure because of the overlap between various organisations.

The RDA should have as its key task addressing the Region's pressing economic challenges through greater co-ordination of resources, matching training and skills development to employers needs and providing the building blocks which can improve competitiveness, attract new employers and ultimately produce the jobs which the Region so desperately needs.

The new Agency must build on the principle of partnership already established within the existing Northern Development Company but covering a much wider area of activity including site and factory provision, grant making and funding, innovation and technology transfer, infrastructure, training and education. The vision of the RDA is strongly supported within the Regional business community. Both the Regional Chairman of the CBI and the President of the regional Chamber of Commerce have given it their backing and both organisations, together with the Trade Union movement, are represented on the working party established by the NEA to draw up detailed proposals for its establishment.

FOR THE NORTH

The NEA believes that all Candidates wishing to represent the Region in the next Parliament should recognise the importance of giving the North the Regional Government which it so clearly wants. The issues involved are central to the future of everyone living and working in the Region:

-- It is about real democracy-giving the people of the North real control over their destiny

-- It is about ending the situation where so many key decisions about the North are taken by Whitehall politicians and civil servants with n o real understanding of the Region's needs and aspirations

-- It is about giving the North its own voice in the 'Europe of the Regions'

-- It is about ending the cost and red tape of the unaccountable bodies which currently control so many aspects of life in the North and spend so much of our money

-- It is about dramatically reducing duplication and confusion and making far better use of public resources

-- It is about harnessing the talents of resources of the public, private and voluntary sectors to make sure that we all work in partnership to build the North of the Twenty First Century.

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