What is CFER?

CFER stands for:

  • Democracy
  • Devolution
  • Fairness

for the Regions of England

The Context

Citizens of the English regions are now waking up to the implications of the unprecedented constitutional reform project of the Government. Scotland has a Parliament; Wales, Northern Ireland and London all have Assemblies: all democratically elected. As a first step to devolving power in England the Government has established Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in each English region. Each RDA is scrutinised by an unelected regional chamber of local representatives.

While we welcome these developments they are widely seen as not going far enough. Campaigns now exist in four English regions to establish elected and representative regional government. Our campaigns aim to find local solutions to local problems. We aim to develop organic models for English regional government from within our own regions.

Campaigns in the English Regions

In the North East the ‘Campaign for a Northern Assembly’ has been active since 1992. In October 1998 the North East Constitutional Convention (NECC) was launched based on the Scottish Constitution Convention. The goal of NECC is to reach widespread agreement amongst the stakeholders and people of the region on proposals for directly elected regional government for the North East region. This should be done in a manner that persuades central government to hold a referendum that is likely to be successful. NECC has already brought together disparate interests to draw up proposals for democratically elected regional government.

A campaign has now been launched in Yorkshire and Humberside. The ‘Campaign for Yorkshire’ launched its ‘Claim of Right’ in March last year. They are holding a number of public meetings across their region in the run up to establishing a Constitutional Convention in October 2000.

The Campaign for a West Midlands Assembly (CWMA) is now building links across parties and among a range of decision makers. In August CWMA held an initial meeting with a wide range of interested parties which took the first steps towards establishing a constitutional convention.

In the North West the debate is being led by the new regional chamber, The North West Regional Assembly (NWRA). The NWRA has recognised the need to broaden the base of support for devolution beyond the formal structures of the regional chamber. NWRA launched a constitutional convention for the North West last July.

There is also increasing activity in the South West region.

The need for Coordination of an England-wide Campaign

Despite our success in organising regional campaigns the time has come for a coordinated national campaign. Government, Whitehall and the national media need to be educated and persuaded of the case for democratic English regional government. By their very nature all of our groups are committed to a bottom-up organic approach, with their primary effort directed at building consensus for democratic reform in their own region. Together we can make a stronger case for devolution. Not enough attention is being paid to this issue in Westminster and Whitehall: we aim to rectify this situation.

We have reached the conclusion that what is needed is a national campaign in order to articulate our collective case for democratic English regional governments while retaining the discreet identity of each of the constituent regional organisations. We have therefore established the ‘Campaign for the English Regions’ (CFER).

Aim and Objectives

The aim of CFER is to secure a commitment in the manifesto of the Labour Party and the other main parties to allow referendums on directly elected and representative regional governments in England in the term of the next Parliament.

The objectives:

  • CFER will develop the national network of political and media contacts building on the work of the regional campaigns. CFER would use those networks to advocate the case for democratically elected and representative English regional governments. We would aim to produce up to date, reliable briefings and advocacy materials.
  • CFER will seek to influence all the political parties in order to have a direct impact on their policies on English regional government.
  • CFER will act as a conduit for the independent regional campaigns to the national stage. CFER would assist the regional campaigns to focus the national element of their work effectively by giving enhanced and speedy access to a national network of contacts.
  • CFER will provide a central resource for the independent regional campaigns, will help with organising national events, disseminating information on the wdrk going on in regions and sharing best practice.
  • CFER will encourage and support new campaigns that emerge in the English regions which do not currently have campaigns.
  • The Timetable

    All political parties are currently debating the contents of the Manifestos for the next General Election, and CFER are working with all relevant spokespeople to feed into that debate.

    CFER will organise fringe events at all the major party conferences this autumn season. We are building support for, and ensuring commitment to, the principle of directly elected regional government across the political spectrum.

    In the medium-term the CFER will work with all of the parties nationally to build a cross-party consensus in favour of democratically elected English regional government. CFER will also aim to develop deeper public understanding of the issue. We see this as an essential step if we are to reach our goal of widespread involvement of the public in developing and devising proposals for directly elected regional government.

    The regional campaigns have therefore identified the need for the work of the CFER to carry on at least beyond the next general election. We have secured funding for two years with a review at the end of that period that can take into account any changes in the political situation at that time.

    The Structure of CFER

    We are overseen by a National Campaign Coordinator. They will provide the briefings, access research, service the CFER steering group, carry out development work when requested in the regions, provide financial control, give guidance to the Parliamentary Officer and service member organisations.

    An administrator will work alongside the Campaign Coordinator. The Campaign Coordinator and the Administrator will form the Campaign Unit in Newcastle.

    We have appointed a Parliamentary Officer, to ensure the case for regional government is raised in Westminster and Whitehall, and in the national media. He will also maintain a dedicated website.

    We are making the best use of resources by locating the CFER Campaign coordinator in an existing office of NECC in Newcastle. This will make the effective use of resources already committed by the funding bodies by sharing overheads.

    Constituent Organisations

    These are:

    • North East Constitutional Convention
    • Campaign for Yorkshire
    • The Campaign for a West Midlands Assembly
    • The North West Constitutional Convention (Associate Member)