Memorandum by Richard Buttrey (RG 64)
I write in my capacity as a Council tax-payer
in the North West. I have closely followed the workings of the
North West Regional Assembly (NWRA), and attended meetings for
two years. I have no particular knowledge of other Assemblies.
It is clear that the NWRA Assembly is largely
a networking club for local councillors. This is evidenced in
much of their literature and conferences. It seems to have little
relevance to the people of the North West and most of the public
have no idea that it exists. To the extent that they are aware,
they believe that they were at some stage going to be given a
referendum on whether to have an Assembly at all, and it comes
as a complete surprise to most that it already exists. It is unrepresentative
and does not adhere to normal standards of accountability.
These deficiencies are not a reason for reforming
it, rather eliminating it and devolving powers back to local councils.
With MEPs, MPs, local and parish councillors we have sufficient
representation. What we don't need is another level of government.
In the last region wide election, that of the
2004 European Parliamentary election, the Labour party gained
27% of the NW vote. Yet the NWRA is dominated by Labour councillors
who account for 60% of the local authority councillors on the
2.1 The NWRA has not published its accounts
for two years, and at the date of writing this submission, still
we don't yet have a date when they will be published. The NWRA
costs the public purse over £5 million. It is totally unacceptable
and against all the normal standards of public accountability
that we have not seen the accounts since 2003.
2.2 The NWRA is in breach of its own constitution.
Under section 13 (c) of its constitution, local authority subscriptions
for 2005-06 should have been paid by 30 September 2005. By that
date not one of the local authorities had paid. (Confirmed in
a letter to me by the Monitoring Officer of St. Helens MBC, the
lead authority for the NWRA).
When, at its 18 November 2005 meeting, I complained
to the Chairman of the Assembly (Councillor John Joyce of Warrington
BC) that the Assembly was conducting business in contravention
of its constitution, he replied that, "the Assembly is akin
to a private club", and that members (sic) present could
unilaterally vote for continuing in business. Which they duly
What should have happened is that a vote to
become a member of the NWRA should have been put to councillors
in all NW local authorities, and the whole council should have
decided. This never happened and so in my opinion the NWRA and
its members (sic), are acting ultra-vires.
It is completely unacceptable that a body paid
for by the public purse can regard itself as a private club.
2.3 Last June the NWRA re-structured itself
and set up an 18 member board. Despite the web site saying this
was, "following widespread consultation across the length
and breadth of the North West", and despite my particular
interest in the Assembly, I detected no consultation whatsoever,
and certainly not at local authority level.
2.4 Last May the Chief Executive of the
Assembly was suspended. Nearly eight months later we are still
unaware as to why.