COUNTY council bosses have sparked fresh anger after appealing for people to run a new grassroots organisation representing a number of Northumberland villages.
County Hall chiefs have asked for local residents to come forward to lead the fledgling Coastal Villages Community Forum, which will cover Widdrington, Widdrington Station, Stobswood, Ulgham, Cresswell, Hadston and Broomhill. The move follows the recent collapse of the Druridge Bay Community Forum, which was set up more than a year ago to represent the same areas.
Members of the forum decided to dissolve it following months of conflict over its constitution and running – which led the county council to withhold its funding and reject its proposed partnership agreement five times.
The Coastal Villages Forum is being set up as a replacement by a group of local residents and is being supported by the county council which claims it will make a real contribution to community life.
Widdrington Parish Council is one of five parishes which withdrew from the Druridge Bay Forum.
Chairwoman Val Seddon said they didn’t recognise the new organisation as a valid community forum.
“This is a handful of residents from Widdrington Station trying to claim they represent this area, which they don’t.
“Why is the county council trying to impose this when people clearly don’t want it? We were told there would be no money to run community forums, but now there is suddenly money for this other group. What is going on?
“The county didn’t recognise us despite us doing five versions of the partnership agreement, but are now appealing for people to set up another.
“They are trying to sideline parish councils and put in community forums to go over our heads.”
The Coastal Villages Community Forum needs to appoint a chairman and vice-chairman and find an independent ‘host’ organisation to take on its administrative functions.
Roger Styring, deputy leader of the county council, said: “Local knowledge is vital in helping to improve the quality of life in this neighbourhood and we’re keen for people who live and work in the area, and have an interest in its future, to come forward and share their ideas.
“The forum will offer a way of engaging people from all walks of life by giving them a chance to identify and address local problems and concerns, and by feeding the views of local people into a democratic, decision-making process.”
An initial meeting of the forum was held last month and a follow-up meeting will be held on Monday, September 6, at 7pm at a venue to be confirmed.
Anyone interested in getting involved should email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01670 534 118.
Meanwhile, the five parish councils involved in the former Druridge Bay Forum have formed a ‘parish cluster’.
It will include parish councillors and representatives of residents’ associations and other organisations.