Northumberland County Council under fire over County Hall sale plan

Northumberland County Council has been criticised by opposition groups over its plans to sell County Hall

Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth
Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth

Opposition groups on a council planning to sell off its base say leaders will fail to deliver on decentralisation promises.

Conservative and Liberal Democrats on Northumberland County Council claim Labour bosses will seek to concentrate power in its South East heartland to the detriment of other parts of the county once County Hall at Morpeth is sold.

They have also accused Labour of failing to keep them up to speed with developments, with claims the first many councillors knew of the planned sell-off was when seeing it reported in Tuesday’s Journal.

The council’s Labour administration has hit back at its critics, accusing them of staying silent over their coalition Government’s cutting of the authority’s budget, which they say has forced the sale plans.

Peter Jackson, leader of the Tory group on the council, said: “The promises to relocate jobs in the more far-flung areas of Northumberland will actually not materialise in reality, and we will have a council that is run increasingly from Blyth and Ashington.

He continued: “I feel very sorry for the staff who are facing yet more uncertainty as a result of this public pronouncement.

“It is heartless and thoughtless to treat staff in this way.

“It seems the Labour administration are completely devoid of any thought of the families of the thousands of people employed by the county council.”

Lib Dem member for Morpeth, Kirkhill Coun Andrew Tebbutt, said: “Coun Davey has been pursuing his own agenda for decentralising the council’s administration since 2009, without any real understanding of the differences between a district or borough council and the new unitary council.

“His latest gaffe just shows how dangerous are the policies of a party only interested in its heartland of south east Northumberland.

“Not only will Morpeth be ruined as a vibrant market town if he and his colleagues are allowed to pursue this agenda, but services across Northumberland will suffer through lack of co-ordination and being under-resourced.

“The savings Northumberland County Council has to make are too great to facilitate such a radical decentralisation, even if it was justified – which it isn’t.”

A Labour group spokesperson responded: “It’s a bit rich for the unholy coalition of Liberal Democrats and Northumberland Conservatives to cry foul over our potential response to their government’s savage cuts programme for Northumberland.

“Over the coming years we’ll see a third cut from the council’s budget, yet Councillors Jackson and Tebbutt are silent on the need to make £130m cuts.

“The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives when they operated in coalition post 2009 saw thousands of staff made redundant, fees and charges for services skyrocket and millions spent on vanity projects.

“These plans are not about recreating district councils, they’re about keeping our promises.

“We said the Liberal experiment backed by the Conservatives to centralise services was a mistake and contributed to the problems faced by the county’s town centres and we made clear one of our top priorities and a manifesto commitment was to protect frontline services.

“We make no apology for our plan to protect jobs not buildings.”

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