Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ignoring The Voters

You know how democracy works, don't you: the Sovereign People vote and the politicos carry out their wishes.


Just in case you missed it, two years ago the people of the North East voted overwhelmingly (by four to one) to reject the Fatman's pricey and bureaucratic nightmare of a brand new layer of government- the elected regional assembly. So here in the home of democracy you might have thought that would have been an end to it.

But you'd be wrong. The whole thing has simply carried on anyway. Except without the "elected" bit.

If you check out its website you'll find the North East Assembly is now the self-styled "voice for the region", whose "unique strength lies in its breadth of representation". What's more, it's "placed itself at the centre of a whole range of issues affecting the lives of people who live and work in the North East."

Er, would those be the same people who just two years ago made it so abundantly clear they didn't want it at any price? And if so, why would anyone think "the people" would want to be "represented" by the 73 (!) placemen and quangocrats (see pic for example) who now make up the Assembly's members?

Of course, if they were just meeting up in the Scout Hut and not putting the rest of us to any cost or inconvenience, that would be fine. But sadly, that isn't the case.

They, along with corresponding assemblies for the other seven administrative regions imposed on England by Brussels, are part of the government's bloated "regions" industry. Of course it's no longer "run" by Prezz; instead it's fallen under the sinister sway of the Da Vinci's Code's Msgr Ruth Kelly. But that's done nothing to stop its spread.

How much does it all cost? A bit difficult to say, because as the National Audit Office found (see their report), funding comes from a plethora of different departments under a host of different programme headings. Objectives are vague and confused. But the biggest single chunk of money goes to the Regional Development Agencies, mega-quangos with punchy names like Advantage West Midlands, and "one North East". Their soaring budgets are currently gobbling up £2.3bn pa:

And how is all this money justified? Why, economic growth, of course. By "investing" in stuff, we can all get rich. See?

Obviously there's no evidence to support such wibble. As any A Level economics textbook will tell you*, taxing successful regions to subsidise unsuccessful regions has never been shown to increase a country's overall growth rate. Indeed it can make it more difficult for unsuccessful regions because it artificially inflates their wage costs and often lumbers them with white elephant projects (like the infamous Rootes car plant at Linwood) that will never be commercially viable and distract effort from real businesses.

So here we are. Another entire state industry that is costing us a fortune, is in nobody's long-term interests, and which the sensible voters of the North East rejected.

Nobody wants it.

Except the politicians.

* When I talk about A Level economics textbooks, I am of course talking about such books from the late 60s. You're probably not going to find this stuff in your modern picture book equivalent.

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