With a referendum due on November 4, we ask the question John Prescott is putting to the the region... does Yorkshire need an assembly?

Yes... says Jane Thomas, director of Yes4Yorkshire which is campaigning for an assembly

Many readers of this article will have seen buses with adverts on showing a thumbs up and a thumbs down logo.

This is a campaign that has been launched by the government to tell people about the forthcoming referendums on an elected regional assembly. Every voter in Yorkshire and Humber will have a chance to vote either 'yes', for an assembly that will make decisions on issues such as economic development, transport and planning; or to vote 'no', for the status quo.

The reason I am involved in the Yes campaign is because I believe Britain is defined too much by what happens in that square mile that is London, and too little by the rest.

Currently, only about 25 per cent of public sector spending is controlled by regional and local government - well below most other comparable countries, such as Germany or the United States.

Our region is not well-served by a highly centralised, one-size-fits-all approach to policy making.

We need to look long and hard at the way politics is done in this country and try and put an end to the practice of having things done to us rather than for us.

If we want to be the best, then we have to take more responsibility for making it happen. This is not about voting for more bureaucracy.

There are already hundreds of initiatives at regional and sub-regional level that come from one government department or another.

Quite often these initiatives duplicate or overlap or fail to deliver. We don't want more bureaucracy, we do want more democracy.

I don't accept that this will be bad for business - this is not the case in those countries that already have regional government structures. In fact, giving Yorkshire and Humber a greater voice and greater clout can only be good for business and the economy.

It will enable us to shout much louder in the UK, Europe and beyond about what our region can offer investors and visitors. We all know of the success York has in high-tech business, its university and tourism. But we also know there are people and areas of need within the city and the rural areas beyond.

Despite 'regional' policies being implemented by governments for more than 50 years, the north is still well behind much of the south in areas such as standards of public health, skills achievement and earnings.

It is a scandal that people die younger in the north, fewer young people go to university, and wages are lower.

If we carry on doing the same, we will get the same. But there is a solution. Giving power back to the people is part of the 21st century way of doing things. We have accepted devolution as a principle with Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London.

It is about trusting people to develop and deliver their own solutions to meet their needs.

The Welsh Assembly was derided as a toothless talking-shop in 1999, but it has shown how much it can do with limited powers. Education and health already differ noticeably, prescription charges are being abolished and free bus travel for pensioners is on its way.

On November 4 you will have a clear choice.

You can either vote for more of the same, or you can move forwards and have a directly-elected body working for you and Yorkshire.

More White Rose and less Whitehall, that is the choice facing you.

No... says LIZ EDGE, retired trades union negotiator and former York councillor who recently quit the Labour Party

There are several reasons why I think we should reject the idea of a Yorkshire Assembly.

It is not, and never has been, about any form of 'home rule' for Yorkshire.

What it would be is another expensive tier of local bureaucracy.

While it may appear to be an attempt to devolve more power to the regions, in practice that will almost certainly not be the case.

You only have to look at the government's record. Almost day by day, it is taking more power to the centre. Central control is stamped across everything.

All those targets in the NHS, in education, even in housing, show how keen this government is to keep control.

What happened in the case of the Humberside police authority is another good example. There you have a local body which wanted to support its chief constable David Westwood but was overruled by the Home Secretary.

The experiences of Wales and Scotland gives more cause for concern.

The people who benefited there were those living in the large urban areas of dense population. The smaller, remoter areas were completely neglected.

York is a beautiful little city, but it is the second smallest council in Yorkshire and Humberside. I fear both it and rural areas of North Yorkshire could be swamped.

Perhaps the strongest reason for opposing the idea of a regional assembly, however, is cost. Yorkshire Says No, the organisation co-ordinating the 'no' campaign, claims the cost of administering the new assembly, without even considering any money to be spent on providing services, would be about £30 million a year.

They say there will be 30 MYAs (Members of the Yorkshire Assembly) on £35,000 a year each, plus a support staff of 200 or so, and estimate council tax bills would rise by about £25 a year, even without a new building for the assembly.

The 'yes' campaigners claim existing local authorities would switch from a two-tier to a single-tier system. But the only part of Yorkshire and the Humberside affected would be North Yorkshire, the 'no' camp claims.

Reform there would save nowhere near enough to cover the cost of the new assembly - and it would mean that people living in the county would have less, not more, local say.

A regional assembly wouldn't even mean more people getting involved in the democratic process.

I have not met one ordinary member of the public who supports the idea.

The only people who do seem to be in favour are politicians, who see the chance of a nice political career.

So there may be more politicians involved at a regional level, but ordinary Joe Public won't have any more control over his life.

Of course, it will be Joe Public who has to pay.

What concerns me is that when the referendum is held in the autumn, a regional assembly will be voted in almost by default, by a minority of activists and politicians who see it as an opportunity for themselves.

That is why it is very important that you exercise your hard-won right to vote in the referendum.

We need a big turnout of people who are prepared to say 'no'.

The result of the referendum will affect your life far more than any national election will.

It is far too important to be left to people with political or business interests. You, the public, must exercise your right to have a say.

He who pays the piper should call the tune.

Regional assembly fact file

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced in June 2003 that the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber regions would be the first to progress towards a referendum for an elected assembly.

The referendum for Yorkshire and Humber looks set for November 4. If there is a 'yes' vote, the assembly could be running by mid-2006.

It would have between 30 and 35 members. There would be a leader and cabinet of up to seven members which would develop policies and, after gaining approval from the full assembly, implement them.

Executive members and the chair of the assembly would be paid a full-time salary, with other members paid for a three-day week. Salaries would initially be determined by the Senior Salaries Review Body. Once set they, and any allowances, would be a matter for the assembly.

The assembly would have 'significant funding' and powers in key areas such as jobs, planning, fire and rescue, housing, transport, culture and environment. It would have freedom to allocate spending according to regional priorities. Two-thirds of members would have a constituency and the other third would be elected from an additional list, so membership would be in proportion to the votes cast for each party. People in areas which already have two-tiers of local government, such as North Yorkshire, would choose their preferred option for local government restructuring.

Updated: 09:38 Friday, July 16, 2004