Northumberland County Council has robustly defended the decision to cancel a meeting, saying ‘setting aside time for Punch and Judy politics is a waste of council money’.
As reported in the Gazette this week, opposition politicians from across the board have slammed the county council’s Labour administration over its decision to cancel the full meeting of the county council planned for Wednesday, July 2, apparently due to a lack of business.
Parents fighting to reverse the controversial decision to stop free transport for post-16 students believe that the Labour councillors are ‘running scared’ of the group, which was planning to air its views and protest at the meeting at County Hall.
MP Sir Alan Beith called into question ‘the zombie council’, while Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said it was ‘laughable’ to suggest there was insufficient business for the council.
But the administration has continued to defend its actions in the light of the stinging criticism.
Yesterday, council leader Grant Davey said: “There is nothing unusual or illegal about cancelling unnecessary meetings. We are managing the enormous pressures of an organisation undergoing massive change. We will not have meetings for the sake of meetings. We have completed the work we need to finish before the summer.
“I appreciate that not everyone will be happy with decisions that have been taken. There has been plenty of time for scrutiny and challenge.
“Arranging meetings with the sole purpose of creating opportunities for haranguing and maligning the legitimate actions of an elected body does nothing to build the reputation of the council as a responsible body taking difficult decisions.
“We will be writing to parents on Monday to tell them about additional actions we are taking to help mitigate the impact of the change in policy on post 16 transport we have had to make.
“I am genuinely surprised that cancelling a meeting is being described as illegal. All experienced councillors will know that meetings are routinely cancelled where there is no business to be done. Where five councillors or more demand that a meeting takes place, we will have to hold one. But time would be better spent getting on with the business of managing challenging finances, as we must do, than criticising those who are doing their best in the worst of circumstances.”