Clash over MP Guy Opperman's suggestion to revive Tynedale district council

A NORTH MP’s call for the re-establishment of an abolished district council has met with an angry response.

MP Guy Opperman
MP Guy Opperman

A NORTH MP’s call for the re-establishment of an abolished district council has met with an angry response.

Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman urged in the House of Commons that Northumberland County Council should be disbanded and Tynedale District Council brought back into operation.

He claimed the current Liberal Democrat-led Northumberland authority had neglected the west of the county and a new direction was needed.

But county council leader Jeff Reid last night ridiculed the suggestion, declaring: “The cost of administration would rocket. It is totally impractical.”

The Hexham MP, speaking in the Commons, said: “I propose the disbandment of the unitary authority that was created by Lord Prescott.

“Localism would then return to its purest form, and we would get back Tynedale district authority, which is much missed.

“Right now towns in west Northumberland like Hexham and Haydon Bridge are suffering serious neglect from this county council.

“We have elections for the county in 2013 which might bring the change in direction we need.

“If they don’t, then I think we have to seriously consider the future of Northumberland County Council and whether our area would be better served by a re-formed Tynedale Council.”

Tynedale, then controlled by the Conservatives, was among the district authorities abolished in 2009 under local government reorganisation.

It held reserves of more than £30m but Mr Opperman said: “Services have been cut and funding reduced in our area while more and more focus has been given to the south east of the county.

“The county council have given free parking to Blyth and are spending a whopping £20m on a new ‘leisure facility’ for Ashington, all while we can’t even get them to cut the grass here.

“Our area is getting a raw deal from County Hall. We can’t go on like this and one way or another, something is going to have to change.”

But Coun Reid hit back: “I do not agree that towns anywhere have been neglected, and if Mr Opperman would like to come forward with specific things he thinks the council should do but hasn’t, then I would be delighted to investigate it.

“I doubt whether Guy Opperman even knew where Hexham was four years ago before he was elected from the South to a safe seat, so it is surprising to hear he is now proposing the reinstatement of Tynedale Council.

“In the current financial situation, councils that serve populations of under 200,000 are going to find it very difficult to survive.

“If Tynedale had to come back, then so would the other six district authorities that served Northumberland.

“Including the county council, that would mean seven chief executives instead of one, and more than 300 councillors instead of the current 67.

“The cost would be impossible, and what’s more, before 2009, the major infrastructure was always the responsibility of the county council anyway.”

In the Commons, local government minister Brandon Lewis responded to Mr Opperman: “I do not doubt that I would make myself very popular if I were able to return Tynedale District Council to Hexham.

“Unfortunately, the aforementioned Lord Prescott created a structure that ensures, at the moment at least, that that simply cannot happen.”

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