Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell calls for regional assembly after no vote

Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell has called for a regional assembly on the back of the no vote on Scottish independence

Emily Barber Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell

A veteran Northumberland MP has called for the creation of a regional assembly on the back of the Scottish independence vote, after claiming the North East does not want a “Geordie Boris.”

Labour MP for Blyth Valley Ronnie Campbell has spoken in favour of an assembly, after claiming a mayoral figure like Boris Johnson might work for London, but not in our region.

He has called for the assembly after claiming the referendum has highlighted “vast inequalities” in how the North East is being governed and funded, and that businesses have chosen Scotland over our region due to “cash incentives” available North of the border.

Mr Cambpell has also called for the North East to benefit from the Barnett Formula.

A Conservative in the region has however dismissed the suggestion of an assembly, branding it “not the answer for the North East.”

In a letter to party leader Ed Miliband on the day of the vote, the MP said: “The referendum debate has to my mind highlighted vast inequalities in the way that the North East of England is governed and funded.

“The contrast could not be clearer: Scotland is subsidised under the Barnett Formula to the tune of almost £18 billion a year; the North East, especially during almost five years of Tory-Lib Dem government, is squeezed of funding for essential services.

“Our public sector is being cut to the bone, while the Scottish every day have been offered bribes.

“Our NHS is suffering cuts, which mean that children with life-threatening heart conditions may have to travel to Leeds for operations.

“To make it even worse, we suffer the coalition’s blitz on benefits, student fees, rising care costs for the elderly and the bedroom tax, all measure that the Scotland have largely escaped.”

Mr Campbell calls on his Labour boss to commit the party, if it forms the next government, to revisiting the idea of a regional assembly, rejected by voters in the region at a referendum in 2004.

The MP told The Journal he favoured an assembly with representation from politicians and the business community, rather than the region’s affairs being controlled by a mayor or a city.

He added: “The North East does not want a ‘Geordie Boris.’ I do not believe in one person such as a mayor running a region, it might work in London but not in the North East.”

Mr Campell’s letter says: “We are the ones who day after day have to deal with the concerns of constituents hit by shifts in investment, funding, infrastructure and the cost to families of Westminster policies, which reward the rich while penalising the poor.”

The MP told his party leader that such an assembly could push for the North East to benefit from the Barnett Formula.

His letter furthermore claims that major businesses have been “tempted” to the North East, but drawn North of the border by “cash incentives.”

It adds: “The Barnett Formula was originally set up to help Scotland get through a bad patch. It was never meant to be permanent.

“We in the North East are now going through a far worse patch, with the highest unemployment in the UK and the biggest cuts, and the danger is that without our own assembly, that will be permanent.”

Coun David Bawn, member for Morpeth North
Coun David Bawn, member for Morpeth North
 

David Bawn, a Conservative Northumberland County Councillor, dismissed the call for a regional assembly.

He said: “Ronnie Campbell is writing to his leader to resurrect the failed Labour idea of Regional Assemblies. This is not the answer for the North East. We had our own referendum as recently as 2004 in which this idea was overwhelmingly rejected.

“How can we tell the Scots that their referendum holds for a generation, whilst trying to revisit a North East referendum after so little time.

“Terrifyingly Mr Campbell lets slip that this campaign for a regional assembly should be led by “hard-nosed elected politicians”, proof if it were needed that such a scheme is simply a plan to create another local layer of government where further paid Labour politicians can put their noses in the trough.

“Doubtless why the sensible people of the North East binned this scheme last time.

“The only sensible answer to the new “Devo Max” settlement for Scotland, is English votes for English law in the Westminster parliament.”

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