A row involving an MP, Police and Crime Commissioner and councillors has broken out - despite a “welcome” domestic abuse service funding deal being sealed.
Northumberland County Council announced on Tuesday it would cover the £230,000 costs of Cease 24 until April next year, ensuring help remains on hand to vulnerable victims of domestic violence.
The organisation, which provides the Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVA) service for the county, had been due to close in August, and supporters including North Northumberland MP Sir Alan Beith argued that it would put lives of children and adults at risk.
But commenting on the funding announcement, PCC Vera Baird - who was criticised for not stumping up cash herself, but said she had no money available until 2015 - angered Northumberland Lib Dems by hitting back.
“It is a pity Alan Beith MP, who supports the Government that is slashing such services, tried to play politics with the issue.
“It is regrettable too that a campaign alleged that I had some obligation to fund this service when, not only is that incorrect but there is currently little money in the police budget to pay for policing itself.
“It is great news that my political colleagues at the council have stood strong on this issue. I congratulate them.”
Cllr Andrew Tebbutt, county member for Morpeth Kirkhill and group secretary for the authority’s opposition Lib Dem group, has discussed Cease 24’s funding with the Labour administration for the past three months.
He said: “It was a cheap nasty jibe for Mrs Baird to criticise Sir Alan. Cease 24 is not core funded and he is has every right as an MP to lobby for funding for the benefit of his constituents.
“As PCC, Mrs Baird has really pushed hard on the issue of domestic violence and she does have funding, although I appreciate there are choices to be made. It was not necessary to include that comment in when everybody has been working towards the same result, which we very much welcome.
“I will be campaigning to ensure money is found to sustain the work of Cease 24 beyond March 2015.”
Cllr Tebbutt added that Labour leader Grant Davey should not have been allowed to announce the deal alone on Tuesday as it had cross party support.
Mrs Baird responded: “It’s a shame that Mr Tebbutt didn’t read the police budget on my website or he would have seen that the Lib Dem/Conservative Government has removed more than £70 million from the Northumbria Police budget since 2010 – which his party supported.
“He can’t then offer to spend what isn’t there. We will continue to invest in policing and support victims of crime, including tackling violence against women, within the resources we have.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Davey added: “It’s a shame that the Lib Dems want to play party politics with this matter instead of getting behind the decision which rectifies their Government’s cuts to grant funding.”