MEMBERS of a rural council spoke out yesterday against proposals to create an elected regional assembly, which they fear would leave them as a "voice in the wilderness".

During a meeting of Teesdale District Council members said that a directly-elected regional assembly would make members from the dale more remote from their electorate.

After Government consultation with local authorities last June, the council agreed in principle to the creation of a regional assembly.

Members agreed that any referendum on the matter should include two questions on the ballot paper, one asking if the voter is in favour of a regional assembly and then, if so, whether they agree with the subsequent re-organisation of local government.

During the meeting members also agreed that if the local government structure in County Durham is re-organised, Teesdale should be merged with Wear Valley District Council.

Yesterday's administration and governance policy committee discussion was in response to a Government exploration exercise to find the council's level of interest in a referendum on the creation of a regional assembly.

But some members took the opportunity to air their concerns.

Councillor John Armstrong said: "If the districts more or less disappear the members are going to become very remote. We might end up with just two members representing Teesdale and this is very worrying. We would not get a look-in, we would be a voice in the wilderness."

Councillor Newton Wood said: "There are some good aspects to a change but our role as a council would be diluted and you are taken further away from your electorate."