Coun Peter Jackson's appointment deferred as MP joins row

Coun Peter Jackson's appointment to a working group has been deferred amid criticism from Ronnie Campbell

Councillor Peter Jackson
Councillor Peter Jackson

A vote on whether a senior councillor should be appointed to a working group has been delayed, as an MP called for him to be reported to a standards watchdog.

Northumberland County Council was due to consider whether Peter Jackson, leader of its Conservative opposition group, should join the authority’s local development framework (LDF) working group.

However, the council’s Labour leader urged him to reconsider - or face defeat in the vote, citing an alleged conflict of interest between Coun Jackson’s “substantial” landholdings and the group’s remit.

The vote has now been deferred at Coun Jackson’s request, as Blyth Labour MP Ronnie Campbell called for him to be reported to the authority’s standards committee.

Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell
Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell
 

The councillor said he had requested the deferral to seek clarity and that no concerns had been raised with him on his appointment to a “non-decision making working group” prior to the meeting, and hit back at Mr Campbell accusing him of a “diable of bile and lies.”

The full council meeting was being asked to approve Coun Jackson’s appointment to the working group which is involved in preparation of the framework, which will include the council’s core strategy planning guidance document.

Labour and council leader Grant Davey urged Coun Jackson to reconsider, citing the “close proximity” of his land interests and the “intrinsic links” between the LDF and local land values, or warned him the ruling party would vote against him.

Labour also highlighted Coun Jackson’s public statements about issues relating to the LDF in the past - in particular speaking against plans for housing on greenbelt at Ponteland - where many of his land interests are centred.

Yet Coun Jackson told The Journal he would not be reconsidering and that he had no interest to declare, claiming the working group would be unlikely to be making decisions effecting his land interests.

Ahead of the meeting, authority officers said Coun Jackson’s interests as a landowner wouldn’t constitute a declarable interest but that this may change if he was asked to consider the development of policies which might effect their land interests.

Yet at the meeting, the councillor asked for the vote to be deferred.

A council spokeswoman later claimed this was “in view of the advice given.”

Coun Jackson said: “The three other group leaders, including the leader of the council had two months notice of this change but none of them, nor any of the council officers raised any concerns with me whatsoever.

“Even though I had been told that there was no issue with my appointment to, what is a non-decision making working group, it seemed sensible to seek clarity on the matter.”

Blyth Valley MP Mr Campbell had said ahead of the vote: “Councillors have to be very careful regarding their outside interests, just like MPs.

“There is certainly a case to be made for reporting Jackson to the standards committee.

“Throughout his agenda appears to be Jackson looking after Jackson.”

He also accused Coun Jackson of attempting to “manipulate” planning policy for his own political advantage.

“The Tories are trying to manipulate planning to help their pals in the West and strengthen (Hexham Conservative MP) Guy Opperman’s power base.

“We must support Northumberland County Council’s planning policy to ensure we are able to develop for business and homes across the South East and beyond so that we can all benefit.”

Yet Coun Jackson hit back: “This press statement from Ronnie Campbell, as a member of parliament, demeans the office he holds. “It contains nothing more than a diable of bile and lies. The Labour administration in, the now divided county of Northumberland, are on the run and desperately trying to deflect criticism from their many failings, keenly felt especially by those who live outside their favoured heartlands of Blyth and Ashington.”

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