North East Yes campaign launched

Push for Yes vote
Push for Yes vote

The Yes 4 the North East campaign has today launched a "final push" to try and mobilise public support for the upcoming regional assembly referendum.

Three regional referendums were initially proposed but the North East is the only one to be still going ahead this autumn. The other two, in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber, have been postponed due to concerns about the possibility of fraud in all-postal ballots.

At the end of August the Electoral Commission gave the go-ahead for all-postal voting in the North East, suggesting it would cause more problems than it would solve to attempt to change the form of voting at this stage.

Opponents though, including the Conservatives, are still calling for the North East ballot to be postponed.

Attempting to put the controversies of the election decision itself behind it, the Yes campaign today held a rally in Durham to mark the start of the run up to the polling on 4th November.

It claims to have almost two to one support for an assembly among those likely to vote.

Professor John Tomaney, chair of Yes 4 the North East said: "November's referendum is a historic chance for the people of our region to make their voices heard. For too long we have had key decisions about the North East made in London by people who have no idea about what is best for our region.

"A regional assembly would work with the best interests of the region in mind and would set its own agenda, away from Whitehall."

Athletics champion and commentator Brendan Foster also lent his support, saying: "I'm convinced that an elected regional assembly will give us greater control over our lives and future. It will give us a strong voice to speak up for the region both in the UK and internationally. I believe it will also improve things here in the North East, by tackling the problems that are holding us back and making the most of the advantages and potential that we have in the region."

The Yes campaign believes that an assembly would provide a voice and a force of representation for the region. The exact powers of an elected assembly - if it goes ahead - are not yet fully clear, but it would be expected to have some control over a regional transport strategy, economic development and skill development programmes.

The NO campaign, however, argues that a regional assembly would set up a further layer of bureaucracy and absorb money best spent else where.