ALEADING Liberal Democrat has challenged North East Conservative MP Guy Opperman to stand up against his colleagues’ plans for lower benefit rates for the region.
Tom Brechany, Northumberland County Council’s Executive member for regeneration, said the 2020 Group of Conservative MPs’ proposal to Chancellor George Osborne for lower benefit rates in the North East would “deepen the North-South divide”.
And Coun Brechany claimed the proposals, included in the Tories’ 2015 election manifesto, showed they were “out of touch” with voters.
But Mr Opperman hit back furiously, describing the Lib Dem-run council as “a shambles when it comes to helping the poor” and saying he “refused to be lectured” by them on issues of helping the poor.
Coun Brechany said: “Guy Opperman claims to be a modern, caring, compassionate Conservative, just as the 2020 group claims to be. I would be very interested to hear what Mr Opperman has to say about this proposal for lower benefit levels in our region, given how clearly he spoke out against his Chancellor’s plan to pay people here less than those in the South East and London for doing the same jobs.
“As the figurehead for the Conservatives in the region, it would be good to see Mr Opperman sticking up for the North Eeast and pouring cold water on this proposal.”
But Mr Opperman responded angrily, and accused the authority of failing to resolve the long-running equal pay saga for female council workers. The MP declared: “I will take no lectures from this shambles of a Lib Dem council when it comes to helping the poor.
“Especially when hundreds of female former cleaners, dinner ladies and carers are still waiting for the pay they deserve from this failing Lib Dem county council. More than 11,600 households across Northumberland are currently stuck languishing on waiting lists for desperately-needed social housing while the Lib Dems are too busy considering how to carve up the Green Belt in Darras Hall and Hexham’s west end to sell off to big developers.
“In Northumberland the Lib Dems should be ashamed of their record – the way they have managed this county for the last five years has been a disaster.”
Coun Brechany added: “The Conservatives cannot claim on the one hand to be a ‘One Nation’ party and then on the other hand put forward policies which will only serve to deepen the North-South divide and take money out of the pockets of people in our region.
“You simply cannot be a party which is going to build a fairer, more inclusive society, as this group of so-called ‘modernisers’ claim to want to do, if you are going to put forward policies like this one which will treat people from one region less fairly than another. It shows just how out of touch with the north the Conservatives continue to be.”
I will take no lectures from this shambles of a Lib Dem council when it comes to helping the poor