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SHOULD THERE BE AN ELECTED regional government for the North West?

PENDLE HILL rises like a sleeping giant above the landscape of Lancashire. We are looking south from a point not far inside Yorkshire south of Settle. The River Ribble has flooded the fields below. The Ribble is one of the great rivers of England, rising high in the Yorkshire Dales and flowing down through Lancashire to the Irish sea near Preston.

The two other regions being consulted about elected regional government are Yorkshire and Humberside, and the North East. If both those regions voted in favour of regional government and the North West didn't, we would be at a great disadvantage.

People have used the term 'Balkanisation' to describe regional government, implying the break-up of England. But this criticism has no basis. Central government at Westminster will continue to take decisions affecting the nation as a whole. France no less French for having regional assemblies, and the UK is no different.

PRESTON, not Lancaster, is the administrative centre for the new post-1974 Lancashire. It has been suggested that Preston should be made capital of the North West region because if its central position. However placing the centre of regional government in a smaller conurbation may not be the best thing.

We already have two capitals - Manchester, commercial, transport and education capital of the region, and Liverpool, capital of culture 2008 and pre-eminent in many other fields.

In my opinion Preston should continue its role as centre of the administrative county of Lancashire, with Manchester and Liverpool as twin capitals of the region.

THE MANCHESTER SHIP CANAL is both symbol of the historic rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester, and an indicator of the changing economic fortunes of the region. Here we see the bridge, built 1962, linking Runcorn and Widnes, both in the borough of Halton. Spike Island, near Widnes, is where the UK chemical industry began.

Riding the Manchester Ship Canal Cruise you gain an impressive insight into the industrial success, decline and resurgence of the region.

Could a shared role between Manchester and Liverpool help to bring new economic development along the Manchester-Liverpool corridor? I think it could.

MANCHESTER TOWN HALL was built in the mid-Victorian era when Manchester was rapidly expanding in importance and economic might. It is bigger and more opulent than the parliament buildings of many countries.

And yet appearances can be deceptive. Though visible for miles around, its municipal area to the west ends just five minutes walk to the River Irwell, where Salford begins. Under-sized and under-rated, Manchester has been chronically under-funded for years, and has had to make up the shortfall through subsidies from London.

If Manchester was at the centre of a new regional focus, perhaps with a reformed local government system in place, it would finally be given official recognition as a place of national significance.

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