Northumberland County Council under fire from Tories over move plan

Labour leaders at Northumberland County Council have come under fire from Tory opponents over plans to move the authority to Ashington

Exterior of County Hall in Morpeth Northumberland
Exterior of County Hall in Morpeth Northumberland

Leaders at a North council have come under fire from opponents over their plans to relocate its headquarters.

Labour bosses at Northumberland County Council have been criticised by Conservative rivals following the announcement last week that the authority is seeking to develop a new base at Ashington, having previously revealed it was looking to sell its County Hall site at Morpeth.

The Tory opposition group has questioned why other locations - particularly those more geographically central - have not been considered and accused Labour of seeking to base the authority in its traditional heartland.

The council’s ruling group has defended the plans, saying it is looking at Ashington because 60% of Northumberland’s population lives in the South East of the county.

The planned move to Ashington was revealed by The Journal last week, on the back of the proposal to sell the Morpeth site and create nine bases around the county.

The aim is to decentralise services and save money, with running costs of County Hall said to exceed the cost of the new way of working.

Proposals to progress the plans were approved by the council’s Labour-dominated policy board this week.

Yet last night, Conservative leader Peter Jackson said: “They have only looked at this one alternative to moving from County Hall and there are a number of options and different ways the council could organise themselves.

“The only reason for this change is for political reasons, so that Labour can bring the control of the council fully into their heartland.”

He claimed Labour had “closed the door” on other locations for the new base.

“It would seem common sense to build a headquarters somewhere in the geographical heart of Northumberland,” he said. “If it was not Morpeth, Cramlington should be in the mix. There is a refusal to consider that.

“The council own land at Morpeth and Cramlington.”

Council and Labour leader Grant Davey defended the plans, saying: “60% of the county population resides in the South East and the rural coalfields and Ashington is a geographical centre in that area.

He said: “It’s 15 minutes drive from Morpeth and our plan would see our market towns benefit from ‘service hubs’ which would allow residents to be within 30 minutes of access to council services.”

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