COUNTY HALL: A worrying Tory trend

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I’m writing in response to last week’s letter from Councillor Peter Jackson, in which he has deliberately maligned a member of the public, who put forward a comprehensive evaluation of the proposed new headquarters in Ashington, which the Conservatives cancelled.

It is a worrying trend among Conservatives, who seem to think that democratic debate involves impugning the integrity of those who disagree and muzzling them publicly.

Mr John Moodie, a man I have never met and who is not a member of the Labour Party, wrote to your newspaper expressing his opinion that Best Value will not be achieved on behalf of the residents of Northumberland by the council remaining in a building, County Hall, on the outskirts of Morpeth, that was cheaply built, has some ground movement problems, a copper roof that requires renewal, spalling brickwork and ceiling heights too low to be utilised for high-quality IT cabling with a steel frame that weakens wi-fi and mobile phone signals – that’s to name but a few of the problems listed by experts.

Mr Moodie and Labour Group harvested our best value information from three sets of reports prepared for the council by experts in their field, a strategic options review by GVA, an economic impact assessment on Morpeth and Ashington by ERS and a report from the Government’s auditor to Northumberland County Council Ernst and Young LLP, whose opinions are juxtaposed to that of Coun Jackson. I do concur with the sentiments expressed by councillor Jackson in his letter that the decision of the Labour Group to move to a multi-use office block in Ashington was a political one.

I will remind him that his decision to stop the job was also political as is every other decision taken at County Hall, including the decision by his team that includes the Bedlington Independents, to remove the council’s core strategy document that is leading to indiscriminate development right across the south-east and rural coalfield areas of Northumberland.

As for Coun Jackson’s accusation that Labour wanted to move from Morpeth to Ashington to be nearer its heartlands, economically, he couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Labour administration’s spend on flood defences and to make Morpeth’s streets safer through development of the northern link road were the highest expenditure decisions it made during the last administration from 2013-2017.

Coun Jackson’s future plans seem to be stuck on a £57million vanity project in his own ward in Ponteland and he will probably live up to his promise when launching his manifesto, of no spend in Ashington or Blyth.

Coun Grant Davey,

Leader of Northumberland Labour group