A veteran MP in Northumberland has branded a rival a “Tory snob” over his attack on the planned relocation of a “white elephant” council base.
Labour MP for Blyth Valley Ronnie Campbell has levelled the accusation at Hexham Conservative Guy Opperman over the latter’s comments in the Journal about Northumberland County Council’s plans to move its base from Morpeth to Ashington.
Mr Campbell also claimed it was his opponent’s government that was to blame for the need to move the headquarters, saying it was a result of £100m plus cuts in the authority’s budget.
Yet Mr Opperman insisted his opposition was based on fairness and cost.
The Tory was commenting on the release of a reported by independent consultants on the Labour run council’s plans to move from County Hall to a new base at Ashington.
They calculated that all the alternative locations suggested by the authority offer savings in the region of £10m to £14m over 25 years.
The consultants also said moving the council’s headquarters to Ashington would be worth £52.8m to the town. At the same time, releasing the current County Hall site for development would give Morpeth a £56m boost.
The Hexham representative labelled the move “a multi-million pound joke at the council taxpayers’ expense.”
Mr Campbell has hit back at his rival’s comments, saying in a direct message to Mr Opperman: “It is a joke that your government is making £100m plus cuts from County Hall, leaving only a handful of people currently working there.
“You’re a snob into the bargain, why shouldn’t Ashington have the headquarters there? You just cannot stomach it, the fact it will be in Ashington now. Give back the £100m plus, now there’s a joke.”
He later branded his rival a “Tory snob.”
“He wants a white elephant up there with nobody working in it. That site is a prime site for nice houses. He will be able to get a nice house there.
“That really gets in their claw, their snobby claw, the fact it is going to Ashington. Why shouldn’t Ashington have a county headquarters?”
Mr Opperman responded: “This is about fairness across the county. At least Morpeth had the benefit of being in the centre of the county. Spending £40m on a brand new headquarters in Ashington may well be good news for Ashington but it is a dreadful idea for the rest of the county.
“It will move the centre of power even further away from the towns and villages in my area. There is no longer even a pretence of fairness for the whole county.
“Regardless of where this folly ends up the fact remains that when families across Northumberland are tightening their belts it is wrong for Labour to build themselves a £40m headquarters.
“After raising council tax only Northumberland Labour could try and spin spending £40mon a new office as a saving.”