Prescott revives his blueprint for regional assemblies

JOHN Prescott has revived calls for the creation of regional assemblies across England 10 years after his blueprint was rejected by voters.

The former Deputy Prime Minister admits that the then Labour government failed to make a sufficiently compelling case in 2004 when his plan was defeated in a referendum in the North East.

The Labour peer and former Hull East MP also warned Britain’s political leaders – including Ed Miliband – that “they better think again” if they devolve more powers to Scotland “without considering the rest of the UK”.

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“If it’s good enough for Scotland, damn well good enough for the English regions. We should have our future in our hands too,” wrote Lord Prescott in his Sunday Mirror column. “Take Yorkshire and the Humber. We have a population of five million people – the same as Scotland. We create more wealth than Wales, have a significant financial sector in Leeds, engineering specialists around Sheffield and will soon be a world leader in the renewables sector around Hull and the Humber.

“But the area has no collective voice. Yes, it has MPs and effective councils but to compete in a global economy we need a greater collective power. The simple answer is devolving the same powers on transport, health, education, taxation and housing to elected regional assemblies.”

Critics of Lord Prescott say the country will not benefit from an additional tier of bureaucracy when smaller and more efficient government is the way forward for Britain.

However Matt Colledge, the former leader of Trafford Council, says reforms must be driven by regional leaders – and not by Westminster.

Writing in The Yorkshire Post, he says: “The mistake would be for mandarins to insist upon a one size fits all package, riddled with thousands of regulations and controls, that areas are told they must take or leave.”