Green party

What price democracy?

27 October 2004

The North East England Green Party today condemned "petty-minded" arguments aboutthe cost on an elected regional assembly for the North East.

Green Party spokesperson Cllr Nic Best said today: "The governmenthas said that an elected assembly will get a £350 million grant diverted fromgrants currently given to regional QUANGOs, particularly the regionaldevelopment agency, One NorthEast. In addition, the government has promised£100 million 'new money' as a 'sweetener' for the region.

"And it claimsthat the assembly running costs will be around £3.5 million, met by aregional precept of around £25 a year on council tax.The 'No' campaign simply doesn't believe the figures and are resorting to scaretactics on cost."

He continued: "Even ignoring claims from the 'Yes' campaign that an electedassembly might influence up to £1 billion spend in the region, that promised£450 million grant is real money and properly spent could make a realdifference."

Wealth redistribution

"Of course it comes from income tax, but it is tax from all overthe country coming into our region," said the Morpeth councillor, who is also the party's national spokesperson on regional affairs. He continued: "The £3.5 million running cost is the cost of making regional decision-making democracticallyaccountable. And even if that figure were to double over the next five years, the assemblywill still be costing the council taxpayer about the same as a large towncouncil.

"Then again," he added, "we'll be losing at least ten local councils in thechange to unitary authorities and well over 600 local councillors. That'llbe a big saving on council tax which should offset the cost of a regionalassembly - and despite what the 'No' campaign are saying, there'll be fewerpoliticians around, not more."

Loss of local democracy

"To tell the truth," he concluded, "we are more concerned about the loss oflocal democracy than the cost of an elected assembly. But successivegovernments have already concentrated powers at regional and nationallevel, and voting 'No' won't return those powers to the local authorities. So weare calling for a 'Yes' vote, but we are also campaigning for moreresources and powers to be given to parish councls to restore the loss oflocal democracy."