THE number of people in favour of a North-East regional assembly seems to be slipping back.

A new opinion poll commissioned by The Journal in Newcastle shows the "No" campaign edging ahead.

But its support is matched by the number of people who say they would not know which way to vote.

A total of 35.74pc were against an assembly, 35.74pc were unsure and 27.59pc were in favour.

A majority of people, however, are saying they will vote - 72.50pc.

There was emphatic agreement that a regional assembly would mean higher council tax bills - 50.91pc against 17.73pc disagreeing and 31.36pc don't knows.

And 48.64pc disagreed with the statement that an assembly would improve their quality of life. Just 21.59pc agreed and 29.77pc didn't know.

* A special debate on the issue of an elected assembly has been lined up for next week.

The Country Land and Business Association is bringing together key people in the North-East to focus on what a regional assembly would mean to rural areas. The speakers will address issues which specifically relate to rural communities.

The debate is being held at Hexham Mart on Monday.

The motion "This house believes a regional assembly will benefit all the people of the North-East" will be proposed by Prof John Tomaney, chairman of the official "Yes" campaign group.

It will be seconded by CLA North-East chairman John Cresswell.

Against will be Dr Richard North of the North East Says No campaign, seconded by David Lockie, CLA member and local farmer.

A pre-debate vote will be taken at 6.15, with the debate itself starting five minutes later.

* The great debate: page 14.