REGIONAL ASSEMBLY: ACCORDING to a recent poll by the North-East Chamber of Commerce, over two-thirds of business people in County Durham favour the establishment of one council in County Durham as a result of November's referendum.

These hard-working business people understand that three councils would cost more.

Separately, a poll conducted by Kevan Jones MP, in his County Durham constituency, showed that two out of every three people with a view supported the establishment of one council for the county.

Clearly, people in County Durham understand that high quality council services are most likely to be delivered by creating a County Durham Council. - County Councillor Brian Walker, Durham.

IN order to achieve his objective in persuading the people of the North-East, and particularly of County Durham, to return a Yes vote for a regional assembly, John Prescott has resorted to dubious and devious means to do so.

Durham County Council, to appease its masters in Brussels and Westminster, has confused the issue with the proposed re-organisation of local government for obvious reasons.

First of all, recent DCC publications show a distinct bias for a single unitary council rather than three separate unitary councils, or the present status quo. The logic being that the single council would be more efficient and less costly and, therefore, more likely to appeal to the council taxpayer.

But the catch is, we cannot have the former proposition if a No vote is returned for the regional assembly, which appears be a case of 'heads I win, tails you lose'. I can hardly believe the people of the North-East are stupid enough to buy that one. If that is not gerrymandering, arm-twisting, I don't know what is.

If we were to have the Barnett Formula, which has always favoured Scotland and Wales, applied to the North-East, we would receive £1.3bn every single year. This would bring genuine improvements here.

However, there is to be no new money for our area and such unfair funding will continue. - Roy Makin, Esh Village.

IT was very timely for the Yes4 The North East Campaign chairman Professor John Tomaney to confirm (Echo, Oct 5) that assembly members would only be part-time politicians.

It should fit in very nicely with their other occupations and be a 'nice little earner' on the side.

Could he now please explain why such an important, necessary, vital for the North-East's future body only needs to have part-timers?

Could he also quantify how many council workers will also go along with the substantial number of existing politicians.

Carry on talking professor. Every time you say something it makes the assembly seem less desirable. - K Routledge, Witton Gilbert.

I SEE the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has made yet another visit to Durham to extol the virtues of a regional assembly for the North-East.

What I cannot understand is, if it is such a good idea, why he will not allow his constituents in Hull the same opportunity.

There was going to be a vote in his area but he cancelled it at the last minute because it was thought the system of postal voting was unsafe.

If this was the real reason, why not open the polling stations as was done in Hartlepool the other week?

I see no reason why we should have a regional assembly, at a cost of £25m per year, foisted on us when all the other regions of the country can manage without one. - Mrs L McLachlan, Washington.


THIS New Labour Government will cheat the miners out of their compensation for lung diseases, just as they are cheating the miners through the miners' pension scheme.

A great many have suffered ill-health and premature death as a direct result of their occupation. Every year the Treasury takes more than £300m out of the miners' pension funds - equivalent to over £700 per scheme member - and many retired miners with lung diseases and vibration white finger also struggle on low incomes.

Around £3bn from previous surpluses - sitting in the pension funds - is still due to be handed to the Treasury in instalments over the next few years.

These situations are indefensible -- financially, morally and politically wrong.

Tony Blair has damaged the Labour Party. Why? Because he can't tell the truth and it is time for a change in the leadership.

All the miners want is a decent pay-out on their compensation and a decent pension to live on. We are not asking for a lot. We are asking for what is rightly ours.

I urge Tony Blair to put both of these situations right. - DT Murray, Coxhoe.


IT is good to know that on-the-spot fines of £80 are to be imposed on yobs misusing fireworks.

A curfew has also been introduced and it is now an offence for under-18s to possess a firework in public.

The public at large will applaud these measures as something they have always wanted.

As for anti-social behaviour, the present Labour administration is tackling this problem in a way that is unlike any other government, with laws being introduced that are both necessary and popular, but far from draconian.

I support the Government entirely when it says it is determined to drive loutish behaviour off our streets.

Since the call went out some years ago for an end to the walk-on-by society, the Government has taken a grip on this pressing problem. - LD Wilson, Guisborough.


R HARBRON describes Halloween as 'crass commercialism' and 'paganism' (HAS, Oct 14).

I describe Halloween as a great day, when families, ghosthunters and joy seekers go out and have some spooky fun.

I often laugh and shake my head at some letters that appear in Hear All Sides, but to call the celebration of Halloween 'crass commercialism' is bordering on the insane.

Millions of children in the western world dress up in ghostly outfits, and scour the streets with adults in hope of finding a spook or two. It is a fun time day for our youngsters, and one that is only beaten by Christmas Day in my opinion. - Christopher Wardell, Darlington.