A NEW political party has been launched to campaign for greater powers to be devolved to the North-East.

The North East Party (NEP), which wants the region to have its own elected assembly with powers similar to the Scottish or Welsh governments, held its first public meeting in Durham City tonight (Monday, June 16).

Chair Hilton Dawson, a Northumberland-born former Labour MP, said: “My experience is policy is made in London without very much thought of the regions, and in particular the North-East.

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“We are the least regarded and least favoured region in the whole of England.

“There’s no reason why the North-East should continue to be the poor relation in England and lose out to other parts of the UK.

“We can have world-class standards and services and we can create jobs and prosperity.”

Mr Dawson said £300 less in public money is spent per person in the North-East than London every year – adding up to £750m.

The NEP was first mooted in November, founded last month and hopes to field candidates in 12 North-East constituencies at next year’s General Election.

“We’ve had an amazing level of support. Every day we are seeing a trickle of support coming towards us,” Mr Dawson said.

Ten years ago, more than three quarters of North-East voters rejected John Prescott’s offer of an elected regional assembly.

But Mr Dawson said he was convinced the outcome could be overturned, given a party devoted to campaigning for the cause.

“The only way we will get real devolution and real power is by having a party to challenge Westminster parties at the ballot box and get these issues onto the agenda,” he said.

The NEP wants an assembly with wide-ranging powers, excluding only areas such as macroeconomic, defence, foreign and international development policy.

However, Labour says the North-East people decisively rejected the idea in the 2004 referendum and that democratic decision must be respected.

Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “Clearly there is a need for more devolution but we think the mechanisms should be local authorities or local authorities working together.”

Tonight’s launch included a discussion, funding appeal and hustings event. For further details, visit thenortheastparty.org.uk