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Regional transport policy to survive assembly 'no' vote

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THE RESOUNDING 'no' vote to an elected north east regional assembly may not kill off the devolution of transport decision making, planners said this week.

They also warned that the threat of power being taken from the counties and given to regional assemblies remained.

In last week's referendum 696,519 voted against deputy prime minister John Prescott's vision of turning the regional assembly into an elected body with tax-raising powers. Just 197,310 voted in favour.

Had the vote gone in favour of an elected assembly the north east was to get decision making powers for transport similar to those of London mayor Ken Livingstone.

But county engineers' body CSS said the regional agenda would not disappear overnight because of the result.

'Irrespective of the collapse of the idea of electing regional assemblies, regional governance is still very much with us, ' said John Deegan, chairman of the CSS strategic planning and regeneration committee.

Deegan remained concerned over Regional Transport Boards (RTBs), currently being piloted in the south east and Yorkshire.

RTBs make policy recommendations to government, but democratically elected county council representatives form a minority in the decisionmaking process.

In Yorkshire, county councillors take just four of the 12 seats on the board. Civil servants representing government agencies such as the Highways Agency and the Strategic Rail Authority take the rest.

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