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Cabinet rejects plans for North West assembly

MEMBERS of Hyndburn Council's Cabinet have expressed their strong opposition to plans for regional government in Lancashire.

MEMBERS of Hyndburn Council's Cabinet have expressed their strong opposition to plans for regional government in Lancashire.

In a resolution approved last week, the leading Tory councillors set out their concerns over the Government's plans for a North West Regional Assembly.

These include fears about the cost to the taxpayer of establishing regional government, the apparent lack of demand for it and the view that a regional vote could be undemocratic, allowing people from other areas to decide the fate of Hyndburn.

But the motion drew immediate criticisms from opposition Labour councillors, who accused the Cabinet of trying to influence voters by presenting a biased view of the proposals.

The resolution will now be discussed at a full meeting of councillors before the authority adopts its official stance.

Proposing the motion, council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "The overwhelming majority of people are reluctant to see the end of Hyndburn. But if regional government comes about, it will go down the river."

"What I am trying to do is set out the very obvious concerns there are about regional government. One is the cost; another is the total lack of demand for it."

"There are also concerns about the lack of devolution from the Government - it looks more like a case of them sucking power up rather than handing it down."

"This council does not want regional government and it does not want unitary authorities. This council prefers the status-quo."

But Councillor David Myles, deputy leader of the Labour group, said it should be up to the people of Hyndburn to decide whether they agreed with the plans, adding that his group was hoping to set up a public debate about it.

He said: "Over the past few months, all the information that the general public has been given has been very biased. All the councils in the area have been looking to protect their own political positions."

"We feel it is important the public is given a chance to hear a proper debate about this. There are reasons for regional government, as well as against it."

"At the end of the day, it is not us who are going to make the decision, it is the public. We are not saying whether we are for or against it - we are for personal choice."

The Cabinet resolution comes after the Boundary Committee put forward its plans for the region if the referendum, which could take place as early as next autumn, returns a yes vote.

The main shortlisted proposals are introducing one Lancashire-wide unitary authority, creating an East Lancashire unitary authority or splitting East Lancashire into two and merging Hyndburn, Blackburn with Darwen and the Ribble Valley into one.


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
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