Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Ship is Sinking...Is there a Steward on Board?

Sunday Telegraph
December 26th 2004
Christopher Booker's Notebook

The year that Prescott saw his dream become a nightmare
With the possible exception of David Blunkett, no minister suffered a greater personal humiliation in 2004 than John Prescott, with the overwhelming rejection of his plan for an elected regional assembly in the North-East.

It was intended to be the forerunner of similar assemblies in seven other English regions, thus completing the greatest project of Mr Prescott's career: his personal crusade to complete the "Balkanisation" of the United Kingdom by dividing it into 12 "Euro-regions", each with its own elected parliament.

Generally missed in the wake of Mr Prescott's defeat, however, is the extraordinary shambles that has been left behind, which now threatens to blow up into a political scandal. When he set up his eight unelected regional assemblies in 1999, the legal standing of these bodies was remarkably inconsistent and unclear. Their members were nominated by local authorities or local organisations, such as trade unions. The money to pay for their offices and hundreds of employees was given on an ad hoc basis by local councils and central government, with the idea that this would in due course be regularised by elected assemblies.

The collapse of Mr Prescott's dream has raised a hefty question mark over this chaotic system. Who is legally responsible for employing all those officials, paying their salaries and providing for their pensions? Many of the local authorities that have helped to foot the bill of £30 million a year are becoming restive.

Yorkshire East Riding council has already pulled out of the Yorkshire and Humberside Assembly, saying that it is no more than a "money-wasting talking shop". The leader of Medway council in Kent wants his council to withdraw support from the South-East assembly. Other councils in the South-West and the North-West may follow suit. This will leave several hundred employees – many of them in Brussels, where each assembly has its own office – dependent for their salaries and pensions on bodies that are either limited companies or have no legal status.

Neil Herron, the tireless director of Neara (the North-East Against a Regional Assembly), has established that several of these bodies are "unincorporated associations", which are strongly advised under statute not to incur financial obligations because their members are "likely to be personally liable" for the association's debts. In some instances, the councillors or "stakeholders" nominated to these bodies may find they are personally liable for contracts and pension rights worth tens of millions of pounds.

In November, Mr Herron raised these potentially embarrassing points with Stephen Barber, the director of the North-East Assembly – itself an unincorporated association. Mr Barber's response was that the assembly had deferred considering its legal status until next summer.
For the sake of the assembly's employees, it might be desirable to move these issues to the top of the agenda – before Mr Prescott finds himself at the centre of another nasty political mess.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

South East Assembly under siege

"Carol Hodson"
"Edward Huxley"
Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2004 9:43 AMSubject:

RE: Further information

I apologise for the delay in getting this information to you.
I can confirm that five people are in receipt of a car allowance.
The car allowance awarded range from £ 3317 to £5949

From: Edward Huxley []
Sent: 11 December 2004 15:34To: Carol HodsonSubject:
Re: Further information
In this, dated November 19 you say that you will get back to me on the question of car allowances when you have spoken to your chief executive.Have you had a chance to speak to him on this and what was his response?
Edward Huxley

From: "Carol Hodson" <>
To: "Edward Huxley" <>
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2004 9:53 AM
Subject: RE: Further information
The initials PDG- stand for Planning Development Grant- a grant from ODPM To explain further our income from ODPM comes in two parts from ODPM and specific grants cover specific costs incurred by the Assembly. There is a requirement on the Assembly to report quarterly to ODPM on expenditure,giving details of expenditure by cost line. This quarterly requirement also requires us to forecast the next quarters activities and associated costs.The initials SEERAWP stand for South East England Regional AggregatesWorking Party. This is a separate piece of work that we do for ODPM forwhich there a re specific outputs and reporting requirements.
Re Car allowances. I would like to get my Chief Executive's agreement to issuing this information to you. I will get back to you on this as soon as I have a chance to discuss it with him.Also a point you make earlier in your email. No council is forced to make a subscription to the Assembly it is for each local authority to decide. If they do not pay the subscription however they are not entitle to participate in Assembly meetings or vote at meetings.

From: Edward Huxley []
Sent: 20 November 2004 09:23
To: Carol HodsonSubject:
Re: Further information
I assure you that I have no intention of carrying on this correspondence indefinitely but there are some points arising out of your reply.It seems my information about your next budget was correct; it is very nearly £4million.Can you please tell me what the abbreviations PDG and SEERAWP stand for?
I assume ODPM funding refers to the office of the Deputy Prime minister;this of course should be called taxpayers` contribution - same applies toother subscriptions no doubt, such as the amounts my own local council Runnymede and county council Surrey are forced to make.
Regarding car allowances: I appreciate that individual salaries are confidential. However there is no reason why you should not disclose the total number of staff concerned and the amount of money paid out.Finally I want you to understand that there is nothing personal in theremarks I have made: I am sure the people employed by the SEERA are decentand intelligent. The sad thing is that you are all involved in a complete and utter waste of your time and our money. I hope all Regional assemblies will soon be closed down.
Edward Huxley

From: "Carol Hodson" <>
To: "Edward Huxley" <>
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2004 3:39 PM
Subject: RE: Further information
Re Budget
The final budget for 2005-06 will be presented to Exec Committee on 21 Jan but I attach a copy of this year's agreed budget which includes an indicative budget for 2005-06 as agreed by the plenary in March of this year.
Re Car Allowances
These are part of individuals salaries and thus remain confidential.
Re travel expenses paid to members travelling outside the region.The total amount claimed to date in this financial year is £1100.
RE Costs of running the Brussels office
The Brussels office costs are not met by the Assembly so I cannot tell you the costs of running the office. The office is shared by many organisations. The Assembly budgeted contribution to those costs and half share in Policy Officer represents the total costs under the Europe heading in the attached budget.

From: Edward Huxley []
Sent: 18 November 2004 08:44
To: Carol HodsonSubject:
Re: Further information
Thank you for your prompt reply. I shall have to take the copies of the accounts myself; it will not cost £12.50. Of course I applaud your wish to economise, but it does not seem to me that you are applying this to other areas.In 12 months SEERA`S expenditure leaped from £2million to £3million and I have heard that it may go to £4million this year. Is this correct? All this money (our money) on a useless talking shop.
With regard to cars: please let me have details of the lump sums that are paid.I had read that MPs receive a special mileage allowance, but did not know that this was available to civil servants and councillors as well. Are you aware that for "ordinary" people the allowance is 40p a mile up to 10,000miles and 25p. a mile after that? Looks like another case of one law for us and another for them.
I get confused about SEERA and SEEDA. As far as I am concerned it makes no difference. What I object to is the over generous allowances paid to the chairman and others for what is only part time work.
In Cllr. Skellet`s case you may be aware that, as leader of Surrey C.C. he gets another, and larger, payout.Can you tell me the amounts paid to members travelling outside the region atSEERA`s request?
Also please tell me the cost of running the office in Brussels.
Edward Huxley

From: "Carol Hodson" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, November 16, 2004 5:17 PM
Subject: Further information
Regarding your request for further copies of the accounts . There will be a charge for this in line with our access to information policy of £2.50 perset of accounts, the copy of the accounts that I sent to you was on the basis of goodwill, we normally charge for all photocopies of our documents.I will require the money in advance and will then send out the copies to you.No staff are provided with cars. Some staff receive a lump sum taxable car allowance. The rate varies per individual. Those who are not in receipt of a car allowance may claim mileage, the current rate is 50.5p per mile forcars over 1200cc, 40.4 for cars with less than 1200cc. The arrangements are in line with local government rates.The Chair, Deputy Chair and Vice Chairs, and Mr Bevan are all Directors ofSEERA not SEEDA Ltd. Their full names are listed in the accounts. The remuneration that the Chair, Deputy Chair & V Chairs of the Assembly are allable to receive is an allowance as part of their duties on the Assembly. No further salary, fees or expenses are received by them in respect of beingDirectors of SEERA Ltd. Mr Bevan receives a salary from his employment with the Assembly and again receives no fees, expenses or salary for being aDirector of SEERA Ltd.The following allowances are paid, please note however that the Chair andVice Chair of the RPC are not Directors of SEERA Ltd. Also no expenses arepaid to members unless they travel outside of the region at the Assembly's request.
The current allowances for the offices of the Assembly are as follows:
Executive Committee Chair £11,460p.a payable in monthly instalments
Deputy Chair £5,730 p.a. payable in monthly instalments
Vice Chair £4,010 p.a payable in monthly instalments
Members £575 p.a payable in two equal half yearly instalments, August andFebruary
Regional Planning Committee Chair £8,015 p.a payable in monthly instalments Vice Chair £2,805 p.a. payable in monthly instalments
Members £575 p.a payable in two equal half yearly instalments, August andFebruary
Members who sit on both committees are able to claim both allowances.
However only one Chair's, Deputy Chair's or Vice Chair's allowance can beclaimed.
Individual salary payments are confidential. The total expenditure on staffand members allowance are included in the accounts.I hope that this information answers all of your requests for information.Carol HodsonDirector of ResourcesSouth East England Regional AssemblyBerkeley House,Cross LanesGuildford GU1 1UNT: + 44 (0) 1483 555210 (direct)F: +44 (0) 01483 555250E:

That Parking Problem Again!

High Barnes
7th December 2004

Your ref: PHEP/PBM/NC/96256134
Our ref:96256134

Ms K Valentine
For Parking and Business Service Manager
Newcastle City Council
Public Health and Environmental Protection Division
Enterprise and Environment Cultural Directorate
Civic Centre
Newcastle Upon Tyne

Dear Ms. Valentine,

Excess Ticket No. 96256134 Veh. Reg. No R24PJR
11/10/2004 – STADIUM CAR PARK (OFF)

I have been forwarded the enclosed form by Mr. Colin Moran the registered keeper of the vehicle above in relation to the alleged offence. We were attending a function in St. James’ Park and had been advised to use the space by the organisers but I understand that Mr. Moran has, or is in the process of challenging this alleged offence.

You make reference to the fact that I am required ‘pursuant to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984’ to return the statement of facts within seven days. I would be grateful, as you allude to the fact that this is an offence and could result in legal action, if you could send me a copy of the relevant section of the act and the nature and scale of offence.

Secondly, you are asking me to pay ‘a cheque/postal order for £60,’ for an alleged offence.

I do believe that Newcastle City Council are attempting to extort money from me in an unlawful manner. I have enclosed a copy of the Bill of Rights 1689, enacted and formally entered into Statute following the Declaration of Rights 1689. I draw your attention to the section highlighted :

“That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void.”

This clearly states that a conviction is necessary before a fine can be imposed. Therefore, Newcastle City Council have no authority to demand money for an alleged offence unless it is dealt with by a Court of Law and your actions are unlawful.

I would be grateful if you could also clarify the nature of the alleged offence committed by myself and provide a copy of the section of the relevant statute because neither the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 or the Road Traffic Act 1991 makes any reference whatsoever to expressly repealing the Bill of Rights 1689.
For the avoidance of doubt, I have enclosed a copy of the relevant section of the Road Traffic Act 1991.

As stated in the ‘Metric Martyrs’ Judgment in the Supreme Court of Judicature, Queen’s Bench Division (18th February 2002) by Lord Justice Laws and Justice Crane (I will paraphrase, but have included a full copy of the Judgment with the relevant sections 62 and 63 highlighted):

62 “We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it were ‘ordinary’ statutes and ‘constitutional’ statutes. The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are Magna Carta, Bill of Rights 1689, The Act of Union, the Reform Acts etc.”

63. “Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not…”

As you are no doubt aware, Sunderland City Council went to quite considerable lengths to achieve the Metric Martyrs Judgment and the precedent set by Lord Justice Laws is clear and unambiguous. In highlighting this and enclosing the relevant documentation members of Newcastle City Council can now have no excuse for ignorance in this matter.

I would be grateful if you could confirm that the ultimate legal responsibility not only lies with the Chief Executive, but also with all the elected members of Newcastle City Council and I would be grateful if you could confirm that you will advise the relevant officers of Newcastle City Council that they are breaking the law by attempting to claim powers forbidden to them.

Therefore, please accept this letter as formal notice that I require any allegations against me to be specified and referred for trial in a proper and orderly manner, should you wish to proceed against me for the alleged offence.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

Cc .Ian Stratford, Chief Executive, Newcastle City Council
cc. Peter Arnold, leader, Newcastle City Council


1. Copy of Your communication PHEP/PBM/NC/96256134
2. Copy of Road Traffic Act 1991
3. Copy of the Bill of Rights
4 .Copy of the Metric Martyrs Judgment

Assembly role is questioned

IC Coventry
Dec 13 2004

The role of the West Midlands Regional Assembly is to be questioned at the full Coventry City Council meeting tomorrow.
Conservatives have moved a motion urging the council to discuss its future after the "no" vote to regional elected assemblies in the North East of England.
The West Midlands assembly is not an elected body and does not have the full powers an elected assembly would have.
Its role is to act as a "sounding board" for the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Attention to be turned on the Councils

12 Frederick Street

Ged Fitzgerald
Chief Executive
Sunderland City Council
Civic Centre

14th December 2004

Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,

Following the overwhelming and emphatic rejection of an elected regional assembly by the North East public in the recent referendum, I wish to raise a number of concerns that I have as a Sunderland ratepayer over the continued existence of the unelected North East Assembly.
On 14th November 2004 I copied you in to an e-mail sent to NEA Director, Stephen Barber, which raised a number of serious questions. I have enclosed a copy of this e-mail for reference.

These questions relate to Sunderland City Council’s use of ratepayers monies to continue funding this organisation.

Can you confirm that in the event of the North East Assembly having a funding problem that there will be no question of Sunderland ratepayers meeting any of the liabilities of this organisation, or that of the Association of North East Councils?
As these organisations are funded by year on year ‘voluntary’ and not ‘contractual’ subscriptions are you happy with the legal position of these organisations creating (now 32) permanent paid positions and has the Council taken independent legal advice?
The Director of the North East Assembly, Stephen Barber has already stated that there is liability insurance in place to cover this eventuality. As the organisations (NEA and ANEC) are both unincorporated associations it appears that this claim may not have legal standing. Have you had sight of this insurance and has Sunderland Council taken legal advice with regard to that policy and potential liability that could arise?
Has Sunderland paid the 2004-2005 subscription yet, and if so, to whom? NEA or ANEC?
Can you confirm that the Assembly’s ‘Strengthening Regional Accountability’ budget of £1.8m over three years is finished in 2004?
Is it the intention of Sunderland Council to continue to support the existence of the unelected North East Assembly?
Can you please advise as to how Sunderland’s members of both NEA and ANEC are chosen?

I trust you will make available this communication to the current members from Sunderland City Council so that they are aware of their own personal positions.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

House of Cards will fall if all the Tories resign their positions

Financial Times
Tory councillors derail plan for homes in east
By Roger Blitz,
UK Affairs Editor
Published: December 14 2004 02:00

John Prescott's house-building strategy was dealt a further blow by Tory councillors after they succeeded in putting plans on hold to build 478,000 homes in the east of England.

The deputy prime minister has put responsibility for long-term housing strategies in the hands of unelected regional assemblies, made up of councillors and representatives from business and voluntary groups.

Assembly officials have been working with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on how regional strategies can reflect the government's aim of tackling chronic housing shortage in and around London.
But the Tory-led assembly in the south-east last month scaled back a target of 720,000 homes for the region and now the east of England regional assembly has also had second thoughts.
The assembly had agreed in October to endorse the 2001-21 target of 478,000 homes. But on Friday it backed a motion from the Conservative group on the assembly to suspend that endorsement after failing to win government guarantees on funding for infrastructure to support housing growth.

The public will be consulted on regional housing plans, which will also be examined by independent assessors. But the deputy prime minister has the final say on the actual targets to be maintained.

Brian Stewart, chief executive of the assembly, said the housing target was always conditional on infrastructure support. "The assembly has kept its side of the bargain, but the government hasn't kept its side," he said.

The assembly wanted £1.5bn from the government in affordable housing subsidies, transport improvements and other facilities to support local communities. But it said funding for new transport, including roads, was "grossly inadequate".

Similarly, the south-east assembly cited lack of government guarantees on infrastructure when it voted to agree to only around two-thirds of the 720,000 target set by its officers.

In a letter to the east of England assembly, Lord Rooker, the regeneration minister, said he recognised some new transport schemes had been put back, but that "given finite resources, difficult decisions have to be taken on priorities between investment proposals". He admitted: "Unless infrastructure keeps in step with growth, we will not achieve sustainable communities."

The Campaign to Protect Rural England, which is alarmed at the amount of housebuilding planned outside urban areas, welcomed the east of England assembly's "belated" stand against government growth targets. But questioned its desire for new roads. "More roads aren't the answer - they would simply make it worse," said Henry Oliver of the campaign.

With the Tory-led regional assemblies hardening their stance against the government, the debate on housing growth is dividing on party lines. Michael Howard, Tory leader, has called on Tony Blair to abolish the regional assemblies, while the prime minister has challenged Tory councillors to resign their assembly positions.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The People have spoken...but just ignore them

One NorthEast
Regional assembly debate has put region in the spotlight
Margaret Fay, chairman of One NorthEast, today said there was "a good deal to be positive about and build upon" in the North East. She was commenting following the 'no' vote in the referendum on plans to establish an elected regional assembly. She said: "The people of the region have had their say and One NorthEast will continue to work with national government to ensure its economic policies reflect the needs of this region. The region's economy is on an upturn and there is a good deal to be positive about and build upon ... We will continue to work in close collaboration with the existing, non-elected, North East Assembly to take forward regional issues such as future plans for transport. Without doubt, the assembly debate has put the region in the spotlight and we will be working to capitalise on this to continue to promote the North East, nationally and internationally."

Electoral Commission ignored...AGAIN!

December 10, 2004
Fraud fears as post replaces the ballot box
By Jill Sherman,
Whitehall Editor and Dominic Kennedy

THE Government defied its own independent advisers yesterday by declaring that all-postal ballots could go ahead despite fears of widespread fraud and intimidation.The Electoral Commission, which has recommended that all-postal ballots be abandoned, accused it of setting the wrong priorities in putting turnout above public confidence. The Conservatives said that the Government’s “reckless fiddling” was undermining the electoral system by throwing away the ballot box.All-postal voting could begin in next May’s local elections. Officials said that the Government would consider applications by the 166 councils which hold elections next May to carry out all-postal ballots.The recommendation comes in a report published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department for Constitutional Affairs in response to the Electoral Commission’s review of four all-postal ballot pilot schemes held in the European and local elections in June. A second report recommends tightening electoral law to guard against fraud.The Government was persuaded to go ahead when the pilot schemes boosted voter numbers significantly in the four areas, the North East, the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands. A referendum on a North East regional assembly attracted a 48 per cent turnout, double that expected. In 1999 turnout for the European elections was 24 per cent. This year, for combined European and local elections it was 42 per cent, compared to 37 per cent in non-pilot areas.The Government said that the figures had underlined ministers’ view that all-postal ballots maximised participation.“Notwithstanding the conventional basis for the next general election, we are not persuaded by the commission’s recommendation that all-postal voting should not be pursued in future UK elections,” John Prescott’s office said.Oliver Heald, the Shadow Constitutional Affairs Minister, said: “There is a risk that the kind of intimidation and fraud that was common in the 18th and 19th centuries becomes widespread in future.”In August, the Governnment accepted the Electoral Commission’s recommendation that no more all-postal ballots be held after The Times discovered widespread allegations of fraud and intimidation in the pilot schemes. Four police forces in North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber are investigating alleged electoral fraud. Two petitions have been sent for trial challenging election results in Birmingham which was not part of the pilot scheme but saw applications for postal votes treble.Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley, said that all-postal voting in her constituency had disenfranchised Asian women voters. “There were people going around with carrier bags collecting up ballot papers and taking them to a safe house where they were filled in,” she said. “In a number of Asian households, the father filled all of them in for the whole family.”She said that intimidation failed to result in prosecution because people would not report families or neighbours.The Electoral Commission said that the public did not like all-postal ballots. “The Government is using different criteria on postal voting and prioritising increased turnout,” a spokeswoman said. “There is clear public support for choice in voting methods.”The Electoral Reform Society said that the pilot areas saw turnouts rise by five percentage points. “Clearly there is an advantage. There are also costs. Those include the increased risk of fraud,” it said.Tony Travers, local government expert at the London School of Economics, said: “I’m surprised that the Government’s determination to have somewhat higher turnouts has overridden the issue of confidence. Turnout isn’t everything. Some of the higher turnouts in Ukraine were among the most worrying features of the election.”

New Local Government Network

Regional government needs sorting out says NLGN think tank
This was published: 2004-12-09
Independent think-tank, the New Local Government Network (NLGN) has called on local and central government to move urgently to ensure multi-level governance works better in the UK’s regions, "otherwise they will continue to be sold short".

Speaking on the eve of the launch of a new report Living with Regions: making multi-level governance work, author Emily Robinson of NLGN, said: “The way that local and central government work with the regional bodies over the forthcoming months is likely to set a pattern of relationships that will endure for many years to come. It is vital that they get this right. Whether the legitimacy of regional working comes to focus on central government agencies such as Regional Development Agencies and Government Offices or on the aggregation of local interests in the Regional Assemblies, it will have huge implications for both the regions themselves and the nature of governance in the UK.

The report has been welcomed by Local Government and Regions Minister, Nick Raynsford MP, who writes in a foreword of the need to face up to the unfolding nature of the devolution agenda: “Developments [in devolution] have created new challenges for those involved in the public sector’s delivery of services and policy, and have posed a new set of questions. For example, how can local government best influence regional decision-making? When does a ‘hierarchial’ approach to policy and delivery work, and when do more collaborative ways of working have to be found? […] This report provides a useful contribution to the how we can meet the challenges posed by the changing pattern of governance”.

Based on extensive interview research conducted across the UK, Living with Regions: making multi-level governance work reveals the need for a deeper examination of major issues of accountability, finance and inter-dependency between different tiers of government, with Ms Robinson remarking: “Multi-level governance is by its very nature complex and we should not shy away from that. The appropriate spatial level at which to take decisions will vary from policy area to policy area. But there are wider issues of accountability, finance and inter-dependency that need to be examined across the board. In a multi-level system, the connections between organisations are as important as the organisations themselves”.

The NLGN report carries a number of key recommendations for the future of multi-level governance in the UK, including:

> Make the Regional Assembly member position in local government into a high-profile Cabinet portfolio.

> Strengthen the scrutiny capacity of Regional Assemblies and extend it to take in the work of more regional and sub-regional agencies.

> Establish a ‘recall’ mechanism, whereby elected bodies could collectively call non-elected agencies to account.

> Instituting ‘Regional Observatories’ as statutory bodies with a duty to share knowledge and best practice across as well as within regions.

> Sharing buildings and workspaces.

> Making better us of technology to aid remote working and information sharing.

As Ms Robinson concludes: “In the end, what we are looking for is a combination of formal mechanisms and a commitment at all levels of governance to working in a more integrated fashion”.

Meanwhile, Geraint Williams of BT – which has supported the report’s publication – commented: "Multi-level governance is about bringing different institutions and organisations together and this isn't easy. Through our partnership work with Suffolk County Council and Mid-Suffolk District Council, where we are helping build a two-tier local authority joint venture, we are seeing that the private sector can act as an important third-party, facilitating the process, assisting communication, removing barriers and ultimately driving the collaboration through to delivery. A public-private approach gives local authorities the benefits of leading edge private sector expertise while still retaining direct control of service provision.”

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) is an independent think-tank, seeking to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower local communities. NLGN was recently awarded ‘Think Tank of the Year’ by the political and cultural monthly, Prospect magazine.

The report is being launched on Thursday 9 December in central London at an early evening debate featuring Cllr Peter Chalke, Leader of the LGA Conservative Group; John Biggs, London Assembly member (Labour) and Deputy Chair of the London Development Agency; Simon Hodgson, Director of the Assembly Secretariat, West Midlands Regional Assembly; Geraint Williams, Business Strategy Manager for BT Education & Local Government; and the report’s author, Emily Robinson of NLGN.
Related links to this article: New Local Government Network

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Early Day you're talking

EDM 228

That this House notes the overwhelming and decisive rejection of elected regional assemblies in the North East referendum by 78 per cent. to 22 per cent. and widespread public opposition to regional government in England, to higher taxes and to more politicians; notes that the transfer of powers to regional chambers was predicated on the ultimate establishment of elected regional assemblies; asserts that there is now a clear democratic deficit, as the regional chambers have no accountability, no mandate and no legitimacy; and calls on the Government to end its stealth regionalisation and for the regional chambers to be abolished, and for the powers that have been seized by the chambers to be returned to England's boroughs, counties and cities.

More rumblings across the country...just a matter of time

This is Plymouth
12:00 - 06 December 2004
A row over the upgrading of one of Devon's vital road corridors has opened a new can of worms over the South West's Regional Assembly.The assembly pressed for an upgrading of the A303/A30 but its pleas went unheard by the Department of Transport, which this week opted instead to improve the A358 from Ilminster to the M5 at Taunton.Today the assembly has demanded to know why its views were ignored - amid calls from Plymouth business leaders to scrap the organisation because it has no teeth at national level.

Even one of its members, South Hams District Council leader Richard Yonge, has admitted he finds it difficult to see what purpose the assembly serves - and would scrap it.Mr Yonge said he believed the assembly would be ditched if the Tories were in power. "I don't want it," he said. "It's never done anything for us. If the Government changes it will probably go, but we'll all end up with regional assemblies if it doesn't."

Councillor David Morrish, Devon County Council's executive member for the environment, said: "What's the point of having a Regional Assembly, which is designed to give a local voice to decisions which are being taken nationally, when it's totally ignored?"

The Transport Secretary's decision effectively leaves the area with only one strategic road route into the far South West."An upgrade to the A303/A30 would have provided additional capacity to accommodate peak weekend and bank holiday traffic to and from Devon and Cornwall, with the M5 west of Taunton already close to capacity at these times."The Secretary of State has ignored the views of everyone - local authorities, the business community and the people and parishes of the Blackdown Hills."

The assembly urged the Government earlier this year to back the A303/A30 project, which many regard as a vital alternative route between Plymouth and London.But its bid was turned down and a top Plymouth businessman is leading calls for the unelected assembly now to be dissolved.

Neill Mitchell, chief executive of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said the assembly should put itself up for election.The body, which meets in Exeter but is based in Taunton, costs around £4.5 million a year to run, paid from the public purse.He said: "While the assembly doesn't actually cost us much directly, there are lots of hidden expenses in terms of the time committed by people who attend its committees and sub-committees."Mr Mitchell said the assembly had put its efforts into developing a regional planning strategy, transport and the environment. He said: "It's wasting everybody's time - but we feel there is the need for an economic strategy."Mr Mitchell added: "The Government has presumed to progressively put powers into the hands of regional assemblies, but the one thing that hasn't happened is that these assemblies have become democratic."The South West does not have an assembly which is elected directly. I don't think as a business body that we would wish to deprive people of the opportunity of having an assembly, but we feel that it should be tested by the public."

Plymouth City Council sends four members to the assembly - leader Tudor Evans, Kevin Wigens, George Wheeler and Karen Gillard - at a 'membership' cost of just over £22,000 per year.The 117-member assembly is part of a secretariat which also runs the South West Provincial Employers' Organisation and the South West Local Government Association.Mr Wheeler defended the body's existence, but admitted its future might be in doubt after a referendum in the North-East firmly rejected an elected assembly.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has made it clear the South West's regional assembly is here to stay and says he has no intention of scrapping it or its secretariat, despite the mothballing of plans for referendums on making it a directly-elected assembly.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Sharp U-turn on all-postal voting

Dec 10 2004
By Zoe Hughes Political Editor, The Journal

All-postal voting could be reinstated following the success of the North-East assembly referendum, ministers declared in an apparent U-turn last night.
Local government minister Nick Raynsford refused to accept calls to scrap plans for more all-postal ballots despite watchdogs warning the system had been "marred by problems" during the summer's local and European polls in the North.
After those votes, the Electoral Commission urged ministers to drop elections where voters were only allowed postal ballot forms - a recommendation hastily agreed to by John Prescott as a way of preventing regional assembly referendums in the North-West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
But in an apparent policy reversal yesterday, Mr Raynsford said the turnout of almost 48pc in the North-East assembly vote on November 4 had helped "underline" the value of all-postal voting. Now the Government says it will keep the door open to all-postal elections saying it was not persuaded by the arguments against.
"We value the important work of the Electoral Commission in moving towards the modernisation of the electoral process," Mr Raynsford explained before saying the watchdog had "generated a useful debate" on how to improve elections.
It was only in August that the Commission recommended that all-postal voting schemes be scrapped, following problems in the massive trial across the entire North of England during the June 10 local and European elections.
There were delays in sending out ballot papers, the system was criticised as too confusing and in the North-East European poll, 18,744 votes were discounted because forms were filled incorrectly.
Last night Sunderland metric martyr and anti-assembly campaigner Neil Herron said serious questions now had to be asked about the future of the Electoral Commission. "The Government should make it quite clear it has ignored every single piece of advice and information from the Commission," he said.
"If they are going to carry on like this regardless, then they may as well scrap the Electoral Commission and give taxpayers back their money. The chairman (Sam Younger) should now be offering his resignation in protest."
Mr Younger, however, backed the Government's response, saying ministers were adopting 70pc of their proposals.
Gateshead East MP Joyce Quin said the North-East had proved all-postal voting could be conducted successfully.
She said: "The Commission really should have taken much greater account in its deliberations on the experiences of Gateshead and Sunderland, which have had all-postal ballots longer than anyone else."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Gauntlet is thrown down...

Northern Echo Letters
9th December 2004
IN 2006, a referendum is due on the European Constitution. It is essential that people can make an informed choice on this hugely important decision for Britain.
There were widespread complaints during the recent North-East Regional Assembly referendum of too little information too late. We mustn't make the same mistake again.
The European Parliament has approved funding of £6.25m for an information campaign ahead of the referendum, and I welcome this investment.
The referendum is an opportunity for Britain to take stock of where it stands in the world, how it relates to other countries, and how peace and democracy can best prevail here in Europe and globally.
The sooner we get on with that debate the better.
Fiona Hall MEP,
Liberal Democrat,
North-East England.

Fiona Hall MEP
55a Old Elvet,
Durham City
Tel: 0191 383 0119

Dear Fiona,

It's nice to see that you are prepared to stand up and be counted with regard to the upcoming debate on the European Constitution.
I wish to throw down a challenge to you to debate the issue on a public platform at a time of your choosing in order to assist with the challenging of any 'information' put forward.
I am sure that you will relish the opportunity to be able to convince the public that the Constitution will be of great benefit to their lives.
Look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

The People's No Campaign
12 Frederick Street

The Noise is beginning

Scunthorpe Telegraph
12:30 - 06 December 2004
An Attempt is to be made to set up in North Lincolnshire a new pressure group called UK Deceived.An inaugural meeting of would-be supporters has been called for Tuesday at 7.30pm. The meeting will be hosted at the Scunthorpe Central Community Centre in Lindum Street.One of the supporters is Paul Potter, who has been a Scunthorpe market trader for 22 years.Mr Potter said: "The idea behind the group is to inform people about the consequences of Britain's membership of the European Union (EU) and future closer integration."UK Deceived will be a new embryonic non- political pressure group. We will lobby all the main political parties on all matters appertaining to the EU."Mr Potter said the new organisation would be loosely connected with the Grimsby-based UK Betrayed group, which had campaigned successfully against the recently proposed North-Eastern regional assembly.A guest speaker, whose name has yet to be announced, will be in attendance on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Herron's nomination by No Director, Colin Moran

Who are the Great Britons of 2004?
Daily Telegraph

We are looking for your nominations
Great Britons 2004 is a series of awards to be presented to the people who have done the most to personify British success in the past year.
And we need you to tell us who they are...

"As a Director of the North East No Campaign I have nominated the Campaign Director, Neil Herron in the category of Campaigner. His tireless efforts over the past two years were instrumental in delivering the massive landslide of a 78% 'No' vote in the recent North East Referendum. Although based in the North East he has become recognised as the most formidable people's representative in the campaign business nationally. The emphatic result was testament to his ability to challenge and expose the political classes and take the people along with him.

Also as Campaign Director of Referendum04 last year he created the campaign which forced Blair to concede to a referendum on the European Constitution.

The massively supported Metric Martyrs Campaign which first brought him into the arena some four years ago is still ongoing and his intervention has ensured that there have been no further prosecutions under the 'Metrication Regulations' since 2000.

This is your chance to endorse this man's efforts on our behalf to challenge the political class. A process which is gathering momentum and will continue to do so.

Please spare two minutes of your time and make your vote count.
Vote for Neil Herron.
Remember, democracy is not a spectator sport."

Yours faithfully,
Colin Moran
North East No Campaign
Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143

Great Britons 2004

Daily Telegraph
Poignant search for the Best of British
By Philip Johnston (Filed: 02/12/2004)
John Peel and Fred Dibnah, two quintessential Englishmen who died this year, and Jane Tomlinson, the terminally-ill triathlete, are among more than 1,600 nominations so far received for the first "Great Britons" awards celebrating outstanding achievement in the past 12 months.
Peel, the DJ and radio presenter, and Dibnah, the Lancastrian steeplejack who spent his latter years defending the nation's industrial heritage, have been posthumously recommended for the prize, which is sponsored by Morgan Stanley in partnership with the RSA and the Telegraph.

Jane Tomlinson: terminally ill but still a tireless fund-raising athlete
The award is aimed at those successful in their field who have also shown particularly British attributes, exhibiting a doggedness of spirit leavened with humour and self-deprecation.
Nominations close a week today and can be made at There are seven categories: the arts, sport, public service, business, science and innovation, creative industries and campaigning.
A testimonial to Peel reads: "This man summed up all that is British with his sympathetic approach, his support of the underdog and his love of family and country."

For campaigning, the most nominations have been received on behalf of Neil Herron, a former market trader from Sunderland who was a key figure in defeating John Prescott's plans for a North-East regional assembly. One supporter said: "He stood up for the idea that governments govern only with the consent of the people." Another said: "He epitomises the bulldog spirit."

Also named is Gary Frankum, a former speedway star with ME who campaigns to raise awareness of the illness.

The sports category is led by Kelly Holmes, the double gold medal winner in Athens – "who struggled, failed, battled and eventually won through", and Matthew Pinsent, the four-time Olympic rowing champion, who retired from the sport this week.
There is also support for Jane Tomlinson, a mother of three, who is terminally ill with breast cancer but completed the Florida "Ironman" challenge and cycled from Italy to Britain to raise money for charity.

She was described by one voter as "an inspiration to all… who meets and exceeds the criteria of British success".

Among the businessmen nominated are the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and Philip Green. The sciences are represented by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, and the physicist Roger Penrose.

Arts nominations include Benjamin Zephaniah, the poet, David Hare, the playwright, and Dido, the singer. Gurinder Chadha, the film-maker behind Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice, and Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer, are nominated in the creative industries category.

The nominations will be whittled down to a shortlist by a panel of judges before the winners in each category are decided and a final winner chosen.

The announcement of who is Great Briton of 2004 will be made at a ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice next month.

So that's what it was all about!

Assembly protesters to fight for devolution
Dec 8 2004
By Ross Smith, The Journal

The campaign which opposed an elected North-East assembly is to re-form next month - to fight for more devolution to the region.
Former members of North-East Says No, the official anti-assembly campaign, will launch a think-tank in the New Year exploring issues including the system of elected mayors.
They will also begin an opposition movement to the European Constitution, over which Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged to hold a referendum.
But the move was slammed as "highly contradictory" by ex-leaders of the Yes lobby, which was trounced by 78pc to 22pc in last month's regional vote.
The new group, which is yet to be named, will once more be headed by businessmen John Elliott and Phillip Cummings, who acted as NESNO's chairman and treasurer, respectively.
And James Frayne, the research director at the London-based New Frontiers Foundation, whose role as NESNO's campaign director prompted a series of "southerner" jibes, will once more be involved.
Mr Elliott said: "The people of the North-East made the right decision rejecting the regional assembly.
"However, I think we all agree that we can't just carry on as we are and we have a great opportunity to generate a real debate on how we take the North-East forward.
"We need to develop alternatives which take powers away from politicians and civil servants in London, and which give local people and professionals real power over services that matter.
"The same principle means we should not be handing more powers over the economy and crime to Brussels in the EU Constitution."
Mr Frayne said the group will start to publish discussion papers and hold meetings in the spring.
But Ross Forbes, former campaign director for Yes4theNorthEast, scoffed: "I think what they're proposing is highly contradictory.
"They didn't have any alternatives during the referendum campaign and we certainly don't know what they have to offer now.
"With the region having decided the way it did, the one big idea has been knocked off the agenda. We don't think there's any easy answers. Knee-jerking into setting up think tanks is a little bit rash."
Neil Herron, former leader of the rival North-East No Campaign, said: "I would be in favour of anything which will help promote and benefit the North-East.
"But I think now we're seeing that the European Constitution was obviously part of their agenda when they set up."
Mr Herron said he will launch a "people's campaign" against the constitution in the New Year.

Northern Echo
Dec 8th 2004
'No' campaigners to launch devolution pressure group
Tony Kearney
KEY figures from the campaign that delivered the No vote in the referendum on a directly-elected assembly for the North-East are to establish a pressure group demanding greater devolution for the region.
Buoyed by their overwhelming success in November's poll, in which almost 80 per cent of the electorate voted against the proposed assembly, leaders of the now-disbanded North East Says No are to set up their new organisation in the New Year.
Recruitment of members is expected to begin in January, starting with former supporters of the No campaign, then widening out to the business community and the professions.
Members of the as-yet-unnamed organisation say it will look at ways of transferring power from politicians and civil servants in London to people in the North-East.
The body would play a key campaigning role in the North-East in any future referendum on the European Union constitution.
Leaders of the organisation say they have no plans to field candidates in forthcoming elections or to staff a full-time office in the short term.
However, achieving such resounding success in a referendum in which almost half the electorate voted is likely to give it an influential voice in regional affairs.
Throughout the referendum, No supporters argued that the status quo had left the region's economy lagging behind the rest of the country
But they said the proposed assembly would be costly and have no real powers.
The new body is being established by John Elliott, a businessman from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and campaign colleague Philip Cummings, with the backing of public relations expert Graham Robb and former campaign director James Frayne, all senior North East Says No figures.
They say it will publish discussion papers highlighting ways of bringing powers over policing, education and the economy back to the region.
One of the areas will be possibly increasing the role of directly-elected mayors.
Mr Elliott, who was the chairman of the no group, said: "I think we all agree that we can't just carry on as we are and we have a great opportunity to generate a real debate on how we take the North-East forward.
"We need to develop alternatives which take powers away from politicians and civil servants in London, and which give local people and professionals real power over services that matter."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Let your papers know the same

This is Exeter
11:00 - 30 November 2004
I understand that Plymouth City Council is still paying an annual "subscription" of some £35,000 to the South West Regional Assembly. I question whether this payment is legal. The assembly is a voluntary, unelected, unaccountable body with no legal identity whatsoever, and the electorate has never assented to the use of taxpayer's money for this purpose. Nor have they assented to the assembly appointing permanent staff on its own account. It now has a staff of some 60 people, and a salary bill of £1.8 million according to its latest accounts, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year. It is outrageous that, following the overwhelming rejection of an elected assembly in the North East referendum, these bodies continue to exist as unelected self-appointed quangos which appear to be out of control. Here in the South West there is even less appetite for this widely-disliked assembly, let alone a "popular demand". We need another layer of local government like a hole in our collective head.
Denis McCallum

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The real criminals

Sunday Telegraph
Christopher Booker's Notebook
Sunday 28th November 2004

Who arrests the Prime Minister for this crime?
Did Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Prescott all recently commit a criminal offence? The promise in the Queen's Speech of a referendum on the EU constitution makes it all the more urgent to resolve an extraordinary anomaly which arose during the referendum on a regional assembly for the North-East.
Among high-profile campaigners for a Yes vote were Messrs Blair, Brown and Prescott, all of whom visited the North-East in the run-up to polling day.
Yet, as was pointed out by Neil Herron, the director of the "North-East No" campaign, the speeches and interviews by these ministers were in breach of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act.
This makes it an offence for ministers to "publish" any material relevant to a referendum during the 28-day "purdah period" before polling day. Mr Herron has in his possession a letter from Ian Scotter of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister stating that the term "publication", according to Treasury counsel, "also applies to speeches and press interviews".
A letter from one of Mr Scotter's colleagues states that "ministers are permitted to speak on the issues during the 'purdah period' if they make it clear that they are doing so in a personal or political capacity and not as a government minister".
Yet when these eminent politicians appeared in the North-East, they took no obvious steps to make clear that they were not speaking in their ministerial capacity, but only as the MPs for Sedgefield, Dunfermline and Hull East.
A series of parliamentary questions has now been tabled by Lord Stoddart of Swindon, asking the Government to confirm that these letters correctly interpret the law - and to make clear who is responsible for enforcing it.
The Electoral Commission disclaims any responsibility. Whose duty will it be, then, when Tony Blair appears on television as Prime Minister during the final days of the referendum on the European constitution, to tap him on the shoulder and say, "I am arresting you for a breach of the Act"?
It may seem ridiculous, but if politicians are allowed openly to break their own laws, does it not become a rather serious matter?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

...from an East of England Assembly member

Hunts Post
Walters' World

24 Nov 2004 16:39
HOW delighted I was to read the result of the Regional Assemblies referendum in the North East. There can be no argument about how comprehensively the people rejected Mr Prescott's dream. And this was in the region thought to be most amenable to the idea.

With a turnout above 40 per cent and a 78 per cent vote against, it is impossible for anyone to claim that apathy ruled the day and lost the battle.

Our region (The East of England) was already right at the bottom of the Government's hit list for directly elected regional assemblies; so I hope the idea will quietly be forgotten.The result gave rise to some correspondence. I have received a mass of letters asking why we have a regional assembly in the East without having had a referendum. I thought it might be useful to explain.

We originally formed The East of England Local Government Conference covering the six counties of this region.It allowed local authorities in the region to get together to look at things appropriate in a regional context. Its members were not directly elected; but they were all elected members of local authorities.

The Government was so convinced that directly elected regional assemblies would soon be the norm, that it designated our alternative, voluntary, chamber as "The Regional Planning Body" for the East of England - the body that would make planning decisions for pan-regional items.

However, it also passed legislation making it compulsory for "at least 30 per cent" of the assembly places to be held by "stakeholders." Stakeholders are not elected (either to a local authority or to the voluntary chamber).

They are appointed.Exactly who decides which "stakeholder organisations" get a seat (and how that seat is allocated to a specific individual) is amystery to me. I am sure there is a piece of paper somewhere that explains it.

At the same time, the Government insisted that we changed the name of the chamber to The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA).That is the body which, earlier this month, accepted the need for 478,000 new homes in the region between 2001 and 2021.

Many of the letters I received complained that EERA is an "unelected QUANGO" and has no democratic mandate to make that sort of decision. To a certain extent they are right; the stakeholder representatives have no democratic mandate. But all the local authority members do - and all local authorities in the region are represented.I am the Cambridgeshire representative. I am a democratically elected county councillor and the rest of that number elected me to represent them at EERA.I claim, therefore, to have a democratic mandate.

However, as the Government's dreams recede, perhaps we should ask them to re-examine the democratic justification for allowing stakeholders to be voting members on regional planning issues.I suspect that we will get a frosty response; for the system would now require primary legislation to change it back to the Local Government Conference model. But it would be nice to watch them squirm as they explain how their placemen supposedly make good the previous democratic deficit.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Grim Reaper spotted on Newcastle Quayside...will the Servants remain civil?

Stephen Barber
North East Assembly
Newcastle Upon Tyne

26th November 2004


There are a number of issues which are still causing concern:
the relationship between ANEC and NEA, and also the funding and liabilities of these organisations.

I am sure the public will take a very close interest at any attempt to attach any potential cost liability of an unelected assembly to the North East taxpayer, especially after rejecting the proposals for an elected assembly so emphatically.

You will be aware that across the country, and also in the North East, that many local authorities are now preparing to withdraw (and also withdraw funding) from these unelected bodies (assemblies / chambers) as they are now perceived to be nothing more than 'talking shops.'
The emphatic no vote in the North East has highlighted the existence of these organisations.
Plus, major decisions that are being made with regard to planning and housing are being done without democratic accountability.

We are receiving many calls and letters from members of the public who feel that they have been the victims of a political con trick.
However, there are some obvious and very serious implications financially and legally should the NEA/ANEC start to lose its funding, or even attempt to continue in its present form.

Therefore, I would appreciate clarification on the points below and I am sure that in the interests of transparency, especially because of the potential compromise legally of members and local authorities, there will be nothing short of full disclosure. We are quite prepared to challenge the legitimacy of the continuance of these organisations legally, but I am sure that this will not be necessary.

1.Can you confirm that the contracts with the 32 permanent members of staff (is this figure correct?) are all in the name of ANEC as the employer?

2. Is ANEC the accountable body and registered as an employers association under S122 of the TU and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 ? If not, who is?

3. Can you clarify what legal advice was taken by ANEC or its members prior to creating such a large number of permanent staff especially as both ANEC and NEA are 'unincorporated associations.' Has the question of personal liability of the members been highlighted and legal advice sought?

4. Can you please forward copies, or make available, this legal advice? ( To clarify the legal position I have provided a link to the necessary section of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 here )

5.Can you confirm whether there are any lease agreements and contracts in the name of NEA or are they all in the name of ANEC?
If so, could you please provide copies or arrange an appointment for us or our legal representative to inspect them?
If not, whose name are they held?

6.Can you please supply me with current copies of both the Constitution and Rules of Procedure for both the Association of North East Councils and the North East Assembly?

7. Can you please advise me whether the members of the said organisations will be covered in any future action by legal representatives of ANEC and NEA, their local authorities (or social partner member) or their own legal representatives?

8. In previous correspondence you referred to an insurance policy and you made an offer to 'indemnify' local authorities from any potential liability arising from any action taken against the NEA or ANEC. Please can you please now provide a copy of this insurance policy and clarify whether the policy is held in the name of one or both of the unincorporated associations? If it was a personal indemnity from you as the Director can you tell me where the funds will be accessed to underwrite any potential financial liability?

I am copying this to the Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, Ged Fitzgerald, David Jennings, District Auditor and also Sunderland Council's members of both bodies.
There are also a number of other interested and associated parties who have been copied in to this communication.
I am sure that you will personally make it available to the members and employees of both ANEC and NEA in order to make them aware of a potential compromise to their personal situations.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron
Campaign Director
North East No Campaign
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143

cc. Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Sunderland City Council
cc. Councillor Bob Symonds, Leader,Sunderland City Council, NEA and ANEC member.
cc. Councillor Bryan Charlton, Deputy Leader,Sunderland City Council, NEA and ANEC member.
cc. Councillor Dave Allen, Sunderland City Council, ANEC member.
cc. Councillor Anne Hall, Sunderland City Council, ANEC member.
cc. Councillor Paul Watson, Sunderland City Council, ANEC member.
cc. Hilary Knox, Assistant Director, NEA
cc. Councillor Peter Wood, Leader of the Opposition, Sunderland City Council.
cc. Ian Scotter, Regional Assemblies Division
cc. Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph
cc. Ross Smith / Zoe Hughes, Newcastle Journal
cc. Tony Kearney, Northern Echo
cc. Jeremy Wicking, Sunderland Echo
cc. Mike Thatcher, Public Finance Magazine
cc. Peter Hetherington, The Guardian
cc. David Jennings, District Auditor
cc. Tilbrook's Solicitors
cc.Bernard Jenkin, Shadow regions Minister.
bcc. numerous including North East Council Leaders, Chief Executives and councillors.


Freedom of Information Act 2000

Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 section 122


The Unincorporated Association

An unincorporated association is a group of people who have come together to a shared aim and has no distinct legal identity. They are known as the Management Committee.

Once a centre has formalised, its leases, contracts etc. will have to be in the name of one or more of these individuals. These individuals are known as trustees, and the trustees of an unincorporated centre are likely to be personally liable to third parties for the centre’s debts.

This structure is used by newly formed groups as it is cheap and quick to set up and it is flexible. It can also be appropriate for centres who have limited liabilities - i.e. they do not employ staff, do not own buildings and do not administer large grants.

The governing document of an unincorporated association is known as a constitution. Use the checklist in this briefing as a guide to what should be included in a Constitution.
Source: Advice UK

F. Wherever possible, regulators should advocate the use of corporate structures for newly formed PSOs in preference to non-corporate structures. Existing non-corporate PSOs should consider obtaining a corporate structure for the greater protection of their appointees.
Appointees in non-corporate PSOs (trusts and unincorporated associations) run greater risks of personal liability than their counterparts in corporate PSOs. The Committee has noted the work of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the Charity Law Association and Liverpool University in developing and promoting a new corporate structure specifically designed for PSOs. Pending the completion of this work, the Committee recommends that existing corporate structures (in particular, the company limited by guarantee structure) should be used by PSOs, wherever possible.
Conclusions involving further study by others
G. PSOs which are not permitted to purchase personal liability insurance from the PSO's funds should review the position with their regulators. PSOs and regulators should ensure that the reasons for the prohibition on such insurance remain valid.
Most PSOs can purchase personal liability insurance from the PSO's funds as a form of protection for appointees. The exceptions are local authority schools, grant maintained schools and non-departmental public bodies. The Committee does not advocate that appointees should be entitled to personal liability insurance as of right. In every case the risks being insured against must be weighed against the costs of such insurance. But insurance does provide a valuable means of reassurance to appointees, and many PSOs are now able to purchase it (including registered charities, following the Charity Commission's relaxation of its rules on the matter). A review of a prohibition where it exists is therefore warranted.
Source:Public Standards

Unincorporated association
Unincorporated associations do not have a separate legal entity, so all the members of such an organisation would have unlimited liability for its actions. It is also more difficult for an unincorporated association to hold land. In addition, from the perspective of the local community, an unincorporated association does not have the same aspect of legitimacy as a company limited by shares or guarantee. Source: URC Sharing Best Practice

Previous Correspondence...
From: Barber, Stephen
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2004 9:57 AM
Subject: RE: North East Assembly

In response to your e-mail of 10 November;

(1) I expect to have the audited accounts for the Association and Assembly for 2003/04 within the next few weeks. I'll send you a copy of them as soon as they are to hand. As you know, the Association and the Assembly share a joint budget. I've put in the post to you a list of the local authority subscriptions for the current year.

(2) Members of the Assembly and of the Association have taken the decision to defer moving towards establishing new companies until June 2005.

(3) Staff are employed by the Association of North East Councils who have the usual responsibilities as employer. Staff have permanent contracts of employment. It would not be appropriate to reveal individual salaries which are personal to the person concerned. The total salary bill can be read from the accounts. The Assembly and Association websites have details of the staff.

(4) Local authorities make a single subscription payment in respect of both bodies. Each is an unincorporated association with its own Rules of Procedure, set of Members and business plan etc. All staff in the Guildhall work for both bodies.

(5) I've sent you a copy of a note setting out Members allowances relating to attendance at Assembly meetings. The Assembly website includes details of Members.



Sent: 22 November 2004 16:08To: Barber, Stephen
Subject: North East Assembly

Just to refresh you with the questions. I am sure you haven't forgotten, but obviously there is a sense of urgency now and there are some very serious concerns growing amongst the local authorities and councillors, not just in the North East but across the country.
Neil H
cc. Hilary Knox

Stephen Barber
North East Assembly
Newcastle Upon Tyne

10th November 2004

Dear Stephen,

I hope you don't mind us turning our attentions now on the unelected North East Assembly so quickly even before the embers of Prescott's bonfire have cooled, but you know how impatient we are.
May I start by saying, and I know that you know that I mean this, that this is not personal, and it is unfortunate that it is you and the unelected North East Assembly that is about to come under intense scrutiny.

We will not rest until the Assembly is disbanded and we have been contacted by thousands of people across the region who are incensed to say the least, at being deceived. They realise that they have been conned and that they are still paying for an Assembly that they never asked for, and thought they had rejected. To argue that they rejected an elected version to be content with an unelected form will unfortunately fan the flames of their anger even higher.

So, we can begin the process of assisting with transparency I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:

1. Can you please forward details (either electronically or hard copy) of the latest accounts for the North East Assembly, and the most recent subscriptions paid by the local authorities?

2. Can you please confirm that the Assembly is still pursuing incorporation? If so, under what Limited Company title?

3. Can you please provide a full list of all employees, their job description and salary and the nature of their contract (whether temporary or permanent) and the who is responsible for potential redundancy and pension arrangements?

4. Some authorities still seem to think that they are only supporting ANEC and not funding the NEA. Can you please clarify the situation and detail the relationship, administrative and financial, between ANEC and NEA for the record?

5. Can you please provide full contact details of all assembly members and the expenses remuneration package they receive for attendance?

Obviously there will be more as this whole affair comes under close scrutiny, but I am sure this will suffice for the time being.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143

cc. Hilary Knox, Assistant Director

Epping Guardian...the clans are gathering...

Editor speaks out about regional assembly
25th November 2004
Read here
It has a £2m annual revenue budget that includes over £500,000 in subscriptions from local councils. Epping Forest District Council is paying over £10,000 a year to be a member, but it only meets "approximately" twice a year.

The East of England Regional Assembly recently backed plans for 11,000 new homes in our district as part of a regional scheme for 478,000 new properties in the next 17 years.
So what do we get for our money, being part of an organisation that has been branded "unnecessary and ineffective"?

And what right does this unelected body have to make decisions that will affect all our lives?
Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing condemns it as "an unnecessary and ineffective and unacceptable tier of government".

The assembly has 106 members none of whom was specifically elected to it. Only two-thirds of the membership are elected councillors from local authoriities, yet the assembly is making key decisions that will have a widespread impact on not just our district but the east of England for decades to come.

The assembly's 2004 revenue account shows it received £591,490 in subscriptions from local authorities and £690,000 from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Chambers Fund. With other grants and income its revenue budget topped £2m.

Yet the full assembly, its website states, meets only "approximately twice a year" while an assembly executive of 40 members meets six times per year.
It costs Epping Forest District Council £10,170 to be a member a subscription that could rise to £12,310 in the next financial year.
Even the district council's own representative, councillor Robert Glozier, says the assembly runs the risk of becoming an "expensive talking shop".

While voters in the north east of England recently gave a resounding no to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's plans for regional government, those of us in the eastern region were not even given a chance to have a say before the East of England Regional Assembly, which employs some 45 staff came into being.

Following consultation with local government and other interests during 1998 the assembly's inaugural meeting was held in March 1999 after, the assembly's website states, it became clear there was a wish to establish a voluntary regional chamber in the east of England.
But who decided? It was not the electorate.

Mrs Laing said: "At least the people of the north-east had a chance to express their views. Epping Forest taxpayers spend £10,000 a year and have absolutely no say in what goes on."
Theydon Bois district councillor Robert Glozier, one of the members nominated by the 54 east of England local authorities, takes his seat as Epping Forest Council's planning and economic development portfolio holder.
He said: "I think most of the criticism levied against the assembly is perfectly fair. Only two-thirds of the members are elected by anybody and one-third of the members are purely nominated by non-elected bodies. The risk of the assembly is that it's just an expensive talking shop.
"The assembly was set up by the Government in response to its own policy of being in favour of regional government and also in response to the EU policy that it likes to deal with the regions rather than with national government.
"At the moment I feel that I and my colleagues have no option but to work with the regional assembly because the Government has given it certain powers. However I feel those powers would be better exercised by the existing authorities the county councils and district councils."
Mrs Laing said: "I know our own councillors such as Robert Glozier do their best within the perimeters of the regional assembly, and of course while it exists he and his colleagues have to do that, but it's an affront to democracy to call it an assembly. It misleads people into thinking that it has some kind of democratic validity."

7:28pm Thursday 25th November 2004

Thursday, November 25, 2004

North East Assembly employees frantically check their contracts of employment

Have they also been deceived? They could end up jobless and penniless and forced to sue the Assembly members to uphold their contractual obligations.
The North East public were certainly duped by the political con trick as the unelected assembly (the vast majority of the public were wholly unaware of its existence) still exists, but once they realise who is funding the con trick there will be another very heavy political price to pay.
As more threads unravel the more precarious the position of the assembly will become until it becomes every man for himself.
Sales of the Guardian at the Guildhall newsagents next to the Assembly have soared.

16th November

Dear Mr ******** (name witheld)
Thank you for your email of 6th October.
I referred your concerns to the National Audit Office whose work is examined by the Committee. They have advised me that you have already raised your concerns with them and that they can only re-iterate the information contained in their earlier response.
The South West Regional Assembly is a voluntary body which is primarily funded by a Central Government grant. The grant carries a set of conditions which outlines the way in which the Assembly may use it. The use to which this grant is put is scrutinised by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and ODPM are satisfied that the Assembly has met the grant conditions.The accountable body for the South West Regional Assembly is the South West Regional Assembly Board which is an employers association under S122 of the TU and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
We are advised that their auditors are Robson Rhodes, 10 Queens Square, Bristol BS1 4NT. Any queries regarding the employment of staff is a matter between the Assembly and its employees. If you have any further concerns about the Assembly's legal position you should contact the Assembly directly.
Yours sincerelyChristine Randall
Committee Assistant.
Committee of Public Accounts

Unquote.This reply is really quite helpful.
It is a lot clearer than most I have received before.
Although not stated directly it says that the ODPM is not responsible for pension rights of the staff. Employment terms are a matter between the staff and the SWRA Board. This has to mean that the staff are employed by people who, having no money of their own, may not be able to honour the pension terms of the employment contracts.
By inference the position of Local Authorities is the same:
Not me, thanks They are the minor funders in any case.So the staff will have to rely on the Board which is currently talking about registration, whereby they could dodge responsibility.
A question arises in all this as to whether the SWRA's staff are public servants.

In the North East the situation is different...with £858,450 (over a third) of the NEA's total budget coming from local ratepayers via the local authorities voluntary subscriptions.
If the local authorities start to withdraw their funding then who pays the salaries, pensions and redundancy payments.
"Not me Guv!" says the ODPM.
"Not me Guv!" says the Local Authorities because legally they cannot as they will face censure from the District Auditor... the only guarantee that they have had against the threat of their councillors being pursued for 'Misfeasance of Public Office,' came from no other than the Director of the Assembly, Mr. Stephen Barber.
So who pays and who is liable?
If I was one of the members I would be taking legal advice immediately, and then handing in my resignation.

Unincorporated Association
Despite the name, this is actually a legally recognised structure. It usually consists of a management or executive committee and a number of members. The association normally has a constitution, which sets out its aims and objectives and provides the terms of reference which regulate the association's activities. The membership may attend meetings (apart from the Committee meetings). The committee is normally elected during the Annual General Meeting where members are nominated to serve as officers and members of the Committee and members attending the meeting vote on these proposals.
The classic example of this kind of group is a local community association where there will be a continuous membership, which represents the community. The members will come together to co-operate on a project but not all the members will want to be involved in the detail of everyday activity and will be happy for the Committee to take over these responsibilities. This structure is ideal where there are no serious contractual obligations (such as leases or full-time employees) for which the management committee members could become liable.

'Smokescreen for his failures'...oh Mr. Younger!

Referendum spending rules 'unfair to No vote'(Filed: 25/11/2004)
Spending rules governing the referendum on the European constitution will give the Government an unfair advantage, Sam Younger, the chairman of the Electoral Commission, said yesterday.
He told an academic seminar that ministers should be banned from promoting the European Union constitution using taxpayers' money for at least 10 weeks before polling day.
Mr Younger said the rules should be changed because it would be wrong for the Government to be allowed to spend unlimited sums highlighting the advantages of the constitution at a time when the organisations campaigning against it could not.
His comments came only a day after Vote No, the anti-constitution campaign, said it would challenge the spending rules in the courts because it believes they are biased in favour of the Government.
Ministers are expected to publish the Bill paving the way for the referendum within the next few weeks. The referendum itself is not likely to take place until spring 2006.
Under rules laid down in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, there are limits on the amount campaigning organisations can spend in the 10-week "referendum period" before polling day.
The main group on each side can spend up to a total of £5 million.
Other organisations that register as "permitted participants" can spend up to £500,000 each.
But the Government can spend as much as it wants on pro-constitution leaflets and advertising until the last 28 days of the campaign, at which point it has to stop in the interests of neutrality. Mr Younger told a Constitution Unit seminar in London yesterday that his commission had already complained to the Government about this rule, which was enforced during the referendum on the North East assembly.
"It seemed to us that it was wrong for the Government to be spending public money from the point at which other organisations were restricted," he said.

and the necessary response...

The Letters Editor

Daily Telegraph

Dear Sir / Madam

'Silence of the Electoral Commission Lambs'

"Spending rules governing the referendum on the European constitution will give the Government an unfair advantage," Sam Younger, the chairman of the Electoral Commission, said yesterday Daily Telegraph 25th November).
Perhaps it was not Vote No's threat of court action that has elicited a gentle bleat from the mainly silent and always disregarded by Government, Electoral Commission lambs, but the fact that the Commission's incompetence and inadequacy was exposed during the North East referendum.
Mr. Younger, you failed to get involved when the Government spent public money producing misleading and factually incorrect literature...hence the Electoral Commission being attached to our actual proceedings at the High Court as 'an interested party.' We were forced to withdraw after being threatened with massive costs. It should have been you bringing the action, not us.
Mr. Younger, you failed to get involved when Ministers blatantly flouted the 28 day 'purdah period' in advance of the referendum, directing our concerns to the Cabinet Office. We have since been provided with material from the Treasury Counsel, which I will forward to you, proving Ministers breached the Political Parties and Referendums Act. Your organisation misinterpreted the act.
When I heard the statement, "I do not trust the Electoral Commission," my ears pricked up thinking that finally this expensive organisation, a mere fig leaf for scrutiny and supposed political integrity was about to be exposed...but then I realised it was a broadcast from the Ukraine.
The integrity of our democracy and its processes are a precious thing and an Electoral Commission which is toothless,spineless and silent in the face of blatant abuses by Government is as useless as a referee without a pea in his whistle.
Mr. Younger, please stand down to expose your organisation's inadequacy so that we, the people, can demand something better.

Yours faithfully

Neil Herron
Campaign Director
North East No Campaign
12 Frederick Street

Tel. 0191 565 7143
Mob. 07776 202045

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Order Your Copy of the European Constitution

The people to ring - in the Europe Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - are: Parul Ram 020 7008 3621
and Garth Davies 020 7008 3695.
Incidentally, Mr Davies, in answer to three specific questions, has stated:
1. The Constitution I will be sending you is word for word the document that Tony Blair signed on 29 October 2004
2. Although the Commons and Lords will spend ages debating it, they cannot alter a single word in it as the other 24 coutries woud then have to change it as well
3. The wording as it was on 29 October, as is in the E.U Constitution document, is now, and ever will be, precisely the same wording that will be put to us in the referendum in 2006.There is no question of any word in the document signed on 29 October 2004 being changed

PERLEEEASE! Mr. Knapman, did you not blush?

...and this makes NESNO look modest!

Roger Knapman (Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party) speech in the EU parliament!
Wednesday 17 November

European Council of 4 and 5 November 2004
"Mr President, Parliament will be pleased to know that the UK Independence Party were the lead players in the recent 'No' to the North-East Regional Assembly campaign in Britain. Seventy-three per cent of people in that region said they did not want any more Euro-bureaucracy. I wonder what percentage would vote to get rid of the already-existing regional assemblies, with their awful appointees and their corrupt practices?"

I know this is politics and I know that Mr. Knapman wishes to jump up and down to get some medals 'cos he's a politician and I know that he was more elusive than Lord Lucan in the North East during the referendum but you would think he would make the effort to get his facts right...IT WAS 78% Mr. Knapman!!!
Oh, and by the way, we are in the process of exposing the unelected assemblies so when we do I hope he will give us a call and we can help him with a factually correct statement claiming victory for that one as well.

North East Assembly Members

From the North East Assembly website
Our Membership
Partners of the North East Assembly from around the region.

Government Sector
Alnwick District Council
Councillor JJ Rutherford (Ind)
Berwick upon Tweed Borough Council
Councillor A Hughes (Con)
Blyth Valley Borough Council
Councillor R Watson (Lab)
Castle Morpeth Borough Council
Councillor DJ Parker (LD)
Chester le Street District Council
Councillor L Ebbatson (Lab)
Darlington Borough Council
Councillor J Williams (Lab)
Councillor L Vasey (Lab)
Derwentside District Council
Councillor A Watson - Assembly Vice Chair (Lab)
Durham City Council
Councillor F Reynolds (LD)
Durham County Council
Councillor NDP Ross (Lab)
Councillor K Manton (Lab)
Easington District Council
Councillor A Napier (Lab)
Gateshead Council
Councillor I Mearns (Lab)
Councillor M F Henry (Lab)
Hartlepool Borough Council
Mr S Drummond (Mayor)
Councillor C Richardson (Lab)
Middlesbrough Borough Council
Councillor R K Brady (Lab)
Councillor P Thompson (Lab)
Newcastle City Council
Councillor P Arnold (LD) Newcastle City Council
Councillor D Huddart (LD)
North Tyneside Council
Councillor WH Jackson (Con)
Councillor D Ord (LD)
Northumberland County Council
Councillor M Davey OBE (Lab)
Councillor D Luke (Lab)
Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
Councillor G Jeffery (Con)
Councillor G Nightingale (LD)
Sedgefield Borough Council
Councillor RS Fleming (Lab)
South Tyneside Council
Councillor P Waggott (Lab)
Councillor I Malcolm (Lab)
Stockton on Tees Borough Council
Councillor DW Coleman (Lab)
Councillor R Gibson - Assembly Chair (Lab)
Sunderland City Council
Councillor B Charlton (Lab)
Councillor R Symonds (Lab)
Teesdale District Council
Councillor GK Robinson (Lab)
Tynedale District Council
Councillor HJC Herron (Con)
Wansbeck District Council
Councillor D Ledger (Lab)
Wear Valley District Council
Councillor O Brown (Lab)

Minority Party Balancing Seats
Councillor D Blackie - Teesdale District Council (Ind)
Councillor AR Bowlas - Berwick upon Tweed Borough Council (Ind)
Councillor H Cairns - Alnwick District Council (LD)
Councillor S Fletcher MBE - Stockton on Tees Borough Council (LD)
Councillor C Foote Wood - Wear Valley District Council (LD)
Councillor RM Jeans - Northumberland County Council (Con)
Councillor SAC Oliver - Northumberland County Council (Con)
Councillor EA Richmond OBE - Darlington Borough Council (Con)
Councillor W Stelling - Derwentside District Council (Ind)

Members of Parliament
Mr J Cummings MP

Members of the European Parliament
Mr. Stephen Hughes (Lab)

Town & Parish Councils
Councillor T Batson

Economic & Social Partners

Culture / Tourism / Sport
Ms O Grant OBE DL

Mr G Warren

Ethnic Minorities
Ms B Prevatt Goldstein

Bishop P Richardson

Further Education
Mr A G Dixon


Higher Education
Professor G Henderson

Learning & Skills Councils
Mr C Roberts

National Parks
Mr A Hinchcliffe

Non Profit Making Organisations
Mr T Morton

Private / Business
Mr P Briggs - Assembly Vice-Chair

Private / Business
Mr L Brown
Sir M Darrington
Mr EM Nunn

Mr DM Middleton

Trade Unions
Mr R D'Emidio
Ms G Hale
Mr D Hall
Ms M Meling
Mr K Rowan

Ms C Dobson
Mr J Robinson

Blog Archive

only search Neil Herron Blog