How we use Cookies

U-turn victory for the Observer in Big Brother battle

HYNDBURN Council can breathe a sigh of relief after Government plans for a referendum on a North West Regional Assembly were put on hold at the last minute.

HYNDBURN Council can breathe a sigh of relief after Government plans for a referendum on a North West Regional Assembly were put on hold at the last minute.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister released a statement saying that the decision to reschedule the referendum - which had been due to take place in November - had been made following concerns about postal voting.

But Hyndburn MP Greg Pope, who last week defied a three-line whip to vote against the referendum, said that the scheme was dead in the water for the foreseeable future.

In the event of a "yes'' vote in the referendum, Hyndburn Council would have been abolished and replaced with either a Lancashire-wide authority or a merger with Blackburn with Darwen.

The Observer has led a "Back off Big Brother" campaign to stave off the controversial plans for a Blackburn takeover and Mr Pope handed over our 1,000-signature petition to the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Mr Pope said: "Nothing will happen now this side of a General Election. I was not very happy about having to vote against my own Government when the Orders went before committee and I am pleased that at the last minute the Government changed its mind and listened to the Observer, my constituents and myself."

"I think that everybody could see from the petition that the details of the proposals were very unpopular and that the Government needed to think again. This is a credit to the Observer and to the people who took the time and trouble to cut out the coupons in the paper and sign the petition. Hyndburn Council can breathe a sigh of relief for the foreseeable future."

Hyndburn Council leaders have given a more cautious welcome to the announcement.

Council leader Peter Britcliffe also praised the Observer campaign. He added: "I think it is a relief that things are to stay as they are. However, I do think it may be a case of we have won the battle but not the war."

"I think if the referendum in the North East goes in favour of a regional assembly there will be further pressure on other areas."

"I am not sure the move to a single authority has gone away but in the short-term it is a great relief and it has given us a reprieve. It's good news but we will have to remain vigilant."

Councillor Jean Battle, leader of the Labour group, said: "I have mixed views. I think there is a need for some sort of regional assembly but not in the format the Government had put forward. I am not sure whether it is right to do away with the district and county councils. Perhaps a three-tier local government structure would be better."

"I am pleased a referendum has been postponed. It would have been difficult to have had one in November because people don't really know what a regional assembly is. I am glad they have seen sense."


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist