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Scunthorpe Telegraph

January 17, 2004

What the proposals involve
January 17, 2004

Plans for directly-elected regional parliaments were put forward in 2002 by the Government.

They would draw power down from Whitehall and would have responsibility for economic development, skills and employment, housing, sport, culture and tourism, transport, regional planning and public health. But they would have to have public support in a referendum. If we vote 'yes' what happens to my council?

In Yorkshire and the Humber there would be little change to the current council structure, because unitary authorities - councils controlling all services such as North Lincolnshire Council - will stay the same.

Eighty per cent of the region's population is under unitary control, but North Yorkshire County Council and its associated district councils would be abolished and replaced with unitary councils to make way for the regional parliament.

What happens if we say 'no' to a regional parliament?

Regardless of turnout, a 'no' vote would mean no change to the current situation - but residents would get a second chance to vote in a referendum in five years.

What would the assembly look like and where would it be based?

The assembly would be made up of between 25 and 35 directly-elected members and will have its own First Minister - much like devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.

The voting system used will be a form of proportional representation - which should stop the parliament being dominated by one party.

The site of the new parliament could prove more problematic. But Leeds and York are likely to be the favourites.

What powers will it have?

The parliament is designed to draw power down from Whitehall rather than away from existing councils.

Its main subjects will be economic development, skills and employment, planning, transport, waste, housing, public health and culture and tourism.

The White Paper is short on practical examples, but many current local issues would probably become the responsibility of the regional parliament.

For example, control of the Humber Bridge could be brought under the auspices of the mini-parliament and the new regional body would have a voice over local transport issues.

Will it cost me any more money?

Probably. The bulk of funding for the new parliaments will come from central Government, but the regional assembly would have powers to levy a charge on your council tax bill to raise extra funds for economic development.

The Government said there would be cost savings by abolishing the current two-tier system of Government, but in East Yorkshire and the former Humberside that will have little impact as almost all councils are unitary.

The Conservatives claim the assemblies will work out at the equivalent of one penny on income tax.

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