We need our own Assembly

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Even before the outcome of last week’s Scottish independence referendum, I was convinced that it is time to have another go at winning a regional Assembly for the North East.

So much so that I wrote to Ed Miliband, urging him to commit the next Labour government to a regional referendum on the issue.

It is true that, ten years ago, a chance for a regional Assembly was rejected, but this time around, things have changed.

The Scottish referendum debate highlighted vast inequalities in the way that the north east of England is governed and funded.

Scotland is subsidised under the Barnett Formula to the tune of almost £18bn a year; the north east, after almost five years of Tory-Lib Dem government, is squeezed of funding for essential services.

Our public sector is being cut to the bone, while the Scots every day have been offered bribes. We suffer the coalition’s blitz on benefits, crippling student fees, rising care costs for the elderly and free prescriptions, all measures that the Scots have largely escaped.

The Barnett Formula was originally set up to help Scotland get through a bad patch. It was never meant to be permanent. We in the north east are now going through a far worse patch, with the highest unemployment in the UK and the biggest cuts, and the danger is that without our own Assembly, that will be permanent.