Anger erupts at plan to change meetings

Scott Dickinson
Scott Dickinson

Anger has erupted over plans to change the timing of a major planning meeting from early evening to the morning.

Labour-run Northumberland County Council has proposed changing the planning and environment and rights of way committee from 6pm to 10am.

At a constitution working group, plans were unveiled by the council to end the long-standing convention of holding planning meetings in the evening to allow the public to attend.

Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “I am horrified that this new Labour administration thinks having the most crucial, public-focussed committee meet in the morning is a good idea.

“For years, this committee has met in the evening to ensure that the public is able to voice their opinions on planning matters including windfarms, opencast mining and highway changes. This plan will make it virtually impossible for working people to attend.

“I am very concerned that the Labour group is showing a scant disregard for their electors.”

But business chairman Coun Scott Dickinson has said that the change is proposed to help deal with council work more effectively.

He said: “The idea of the changes is to make council business much more efficient and orderly. Rather than meetings five days a week, we wanted to condense the meetings into three days.

“This would leave two days for officers to write and produce good quality detailed reports to furnish members with information in order to make informed important decisions. The current five day system leaves little time for officers to write reports, gather information and create detailed reports.”

He added that no changes have yet been agreed.

But the Conservatives are not happy with the suggestions. It has accused the administration of ‘arrogance’ in thinking that it would be a positive move.

Conservative group leader Peter Jackson said: “I know from years of experience that it does take a lot of work, five days a week and often more, for councillors to diligently carry out all of the various roles that they have to perform.

“It is arrogant in the extreme for our friends on the Labour benches to imagine they will manage this on a three-day programme.”