Ruffley says its time to scrap East of England Regional Assembly

Monday, 8 November, 2004

North East referendum delivers fatal blow to regional agenda

Government plans for a referendum in the East of England for an elected regional assembly should be abolished, and the existing unelected assembly should be scrapped, David Ruffley said this week. This follows the people of the North East voting 'no' in the referendum for a regional assembly by a margin of almost 500,000; 78 per cent voted 'no', while only 22 per cent voted 'yes'.

The present regional chamber- the self-styled East of England Regional Assembly- is not directly elected but made up of officials, councillors, 'community stakeholders', and numerous committees. It covers an area from the fringes of London to the North Norfolk coast and includes nearly five and a half million people.

David said:

'People want action to deliver cleaner hospitals, lower taxes, school discipline and more police. The North East referendum result shows people think that a regional assembly means just one thing- more talk and higher taxes.

'This vote shows that people do not want an expensive extra layer of regional government. Regional assemblies take powers from existing local councils and local people, such as over housing, planning and local transport. They are less democratic and more remote. The existing, unelected regional assembly is an expensive talking shop which be shut down, and the money saved should be spent on frontline services, like cleaner streets.

'The next Conservative Government will scrap the existing regional chambers, abolish regional planning, and implement real decentralisation, restoring power to local people away from Whitehall and its regional quangos. We will give more power and control to people who really know what is best for themselves, their families and their local communities.'