The assembly was created by the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998. The first meeting was held in 1999. In July 2003 the assembly was reconstituted to combine its existing functions with those of the regional arm of the Local Government Association and of the Regional Employers Organisation.
The NWRA acted as the representative voice of the region and worked to promote the economic, environmental and social well-being of the North West of England. The key functions of the assembly were:
Co-ordinate the public expenditure of local authorities
Membership of the NWRA was not by direct election. The NWRA represented the interests of Cumbria, Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside and had 80 members nominated by Local Authorities, business, trade unions, further and higher education, environmental interests, and the voluntary, cultural and community sectors including sport and tourism.