Parking charges a ‘tax on market towns’

Northumberland County Councillor and conservative leader Peter Jackson at County Hall.
Northumberland County Councillor and conservative leader Peter Jackson at County Hall.

Car parking is a classic example of how the ruling Liberal Democrats have divided Northumberland, according to Tory group leader Coun Peter Jackson.

Charges in rural areas when drivers in the urban south east parked free were a tax on market towns, he told the budget meeting at County Hall last Wednesday.

The administration argues that is what it inherited from the abolished district councils.

He said a Conservative county-wide survey indicated voters’ number one issue was roads. Investment was needed to counter years of neglect and so it was the wrong time to cut the roads budget and workforce.

Coun Tebbutt announced an extra £6million for roads in response to public concern.

Coun Jackson said the council’s debt had doubled under the Lib Dems. It had wasted money on fat-cat consultants, missed targets for affordable housing, become increasingly centralised and its empty buildings were costing £13million.

If it had acted sooner to secure superfast broadband, it could have had at least £20million in government aid instead of £7million – to which council leader Coun Jeff Reid responded: “Rubbish, Peter.”

l A Tory call for performance-related pay at the council was decisively rejected.

Coun Jackson suggested it could raise the wages of the lowest-paid, who had been asked to take on more responsibility as the number of workers had been cut.