A CAMPAIGNER has branded the unelected North-East Assembly a waste of money after it approved plans to spend £2.1m in the new financial year.

The assembly adopted its first separate budget after the decision was taken to separate the finances of it and its sister organisation, The Association of North-East Councils (ANEC).

From April, the money that the region's councils paid into the same fund for the two organisations will be split.

In 2005/2006 they will pay £880,000, of which £800,000 will go to lobbying organisation ANEC, and will almost entirely fund its work.

The remainder will go to the assembly, which says it needs the contribution if it is access other funding, such as Government grants.

Anti-assembly campaigner Neil Herron has lodged a complaint about council funding for the assembly and wants the District Auditor and the Standards Board for England and Wales to investigate.

He said the two organisations shared the same building and staff and that this would continue under the new arrangement.

He said £2.1m of public money will be spent on "Something that nobody wants and nobody asked for".

He added: "It flies in the face of the verdict delivered by the people of the North-East in the referendum on the elected assembly."

Chris Foote-Wood, the leader of the LibDem group on the assembly, said the separation of the two organisations would clarify the situation for the public.

He said: "Although a proportion of the grant will be allocated to the assembly in order to qualify for Government grant, it is small and it is to ensure that both organisations have proper funding."

The assembly said its spending has risen in line with inflation.