Protest planned as post-16 meeting called

Post-16 protesters outside the Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman
Post-16 protesters outside the Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

Parents fighting against the axing of free post-16 transport for students in Northumberland are planning a mass protest next week.

It is set to take place ahead of an extraordinary meeting, called by the Conservatives, which has been scheduled for Friday, July 11, at 9.30am.

This comes after fury that today’s full council meeting, at which parents wanted to make their views known, was cancelled due to a lack of business, according to the Labour administration.

Also this week, a Conservative MP raised the ‘teenage tax’ and the cancelled council meeting in the House of Commons.

On Monday, Hexham MP Guy Opperman said that Northumberland County Council ‘has cancelled its monthly full council meetings on the premise of saving money’.

“We know that it is to avoid protest about the teenage transport tax and the lack of a local plan,” he continued. “Does the Secretary of State agree that democracy, debate and scrutiny are key pillars of a council that should not be scrapped?”

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, replied: “I think those Labour councillors will find that they can run but cannot hide from the electorate. Part of the process of being a local councillor is being accountable to the electorate. They should just stop hiding and face the facts.”

Reacting to the exchange, Labour’s council leader, Grant Davey, said: “It’s a bit rich for the Tories to cry foul over a cancelled meeting where there was no business to transact. What Mr Pickles and Mr Opperman didn’t say was that Parliament was closed for an extra 19 days in May because the ‘Government had run out of business to debate’. So it seems to be okay to close the ‘mother of all parliaments’, but not cancel a council meeting.

“The extraordinary council meeting could end up costing the council tax payers over £40,000 which is a very expensive way to play gesture politics after their own Government has raided Northumberland’s budget to the tune of £130million. It’s cynical, hypocritical and it goes to show that local Tories would rather spend than save money”.