'North East can make it work'
LABOUR party boss Ian McCartney has urged voters to say Yes in the North East assembly referendum.
He was visiting Sunderland to meet city councillors in the run-up to the big vote.Mr McCartney, party chairman, was also following up a promise to visit the city again after he met councillors in the run-up to this year's local and European elections.
He was speaking as Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy announced he was in favour of an assembly while UKIP Euro MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk said it should be a No vote.
Wearing a Yes campaign badge on his suit lapel, Mr McCartney said the referendum was a chance for people to have a greater say in shaping the future of the North East.He is MP for the North West constituency of Makerfield and said he was "disappointed" when plans there for a referendum were pulled earlier this year.He said: "The assemblies are about sticking up for ourselves, making things happen, giving regions a stronger voice and having more confidence in ourselves."
Mr McCartney remained confident, however, that referendums would go ahead in the North West and in Yorkshire and Humberside.The idea behind a North East assembly of 25 members, that could be based in Durham, is to give it spending and planning powers in areas such as transport, economic development and public health which are currently held by civil servants.
No campaigners believe, though, that it will be a "talking shop" with no real power and add another layer of Government to the North East.
Mr McCartney said: "Assembly powers are coming from central Government, not local government and are a chance for the region to speak up for itself."We are always being told by the No campaign that an assembly will not influence Government. That message breeds cynicism and despair. The Yes message is a positive campaign about having pride in communities."There's £1billion spent every year by Government departments here in the region, or on behalf of the region, but when the No campaign says we don't want, or have to have regional government, we already have it and this is about making it more accountable."I am confident the North East can make it work. "
Voters are getting ballot packs in the middle of next month and the referendum result is expected to be announced at midnight on Thursday, November 4.
Assembly leaflet misleading, says Herron
NORTH East No campaigners were holding last-minute talks with lawyers before lodging a judicial review at the High Court tomorrow.
Neil Herron, campaign spokesman, said "misleading information" had been put out by the Government in the run up to the referendum.
He said the Government was already writing to voters in County Durham correcting a mistake over the cost of local reorganisation and it should do the same for the rest of the North East.
There were also other questions and differences in the Your Say leaflet and the assembly that was published in July. This was over future rules and how members might be elected.
Mr Herron added: "We want to make it abundantly clear that we wish the referendum to go ahead. "It is not our intention to force a postponement."
A spokeswoman from the ODPM said the Durham information was being corrected with a separate mailshot to voters and it stood by the rest of the Your Say leaflet.
Friday, September 24, 2004
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