I am picking up a feeling of unease in Northumberland as it becomes apparent to many residents that some areas of our county are seen to receive better treatment than others.
In the north it is apparent that essential local services are under pressure with weeds growing in our streets, public buildings being closed, reducing services from Active Northumberland whilst increasing prices.
Public assets are being sold off and the town is still patently short of car parking spaces, making congestion unbearable at times. The state of local roads shows the lack of attention to this part of the county. Certainly the rural areas are feeling the full brunt of this county council’s desire to prioritise the Labour heartlands elsewhere.
No one issue shows this more than the imposition of Post 16 transport charges, severely affecting the life chances of our next generation and putting huge pressure on many families.
And it is clear from the county council’s own figures that the need for savings is being driven by the repayments on its vast and growing pile of debt with the council’s debt burden doubling over the last four years. Crazy vanity schemes, such as the purchase of a 40-year-old shopping centre in Cramlington for £83million or the new County Hall in Ashington project, which could now reach a sum of £80 million according to the tender documents, are just examples of spending out of control.
Part of the solution must be to bring back some form of local control to stop these attacks on our local services. Other councils have devolved decision making over all kinds of matters such as planning and roads maintenance on an area basis and have devolved local budgets for many essential services.
What we have seen in Northumberland has been the complete opposite of this with decisions being made in the most centralised and out of touch manner. This is a council which is remote and has lost the ability to really listen.
North Northumberland should have its say back.
Coun Peter Jackson
Leader of Northumberland Conservatives