A rural row that just will not go away for council

Parents fighting to reverse cuts to post-16 transport are angry that the council leader will not meet them, while the Tories have formally moved to suspend the decision.

Allison Joynson, a member of the parents’ protest group, which now has more than 1,000 members on Facebook, contacted Grant Davey to arrange a discussion, but to no avail.

A spokeswoman for the county council said: “The leader of the council receives many requests for meetings from across the county and is unable to meet everyone.”

Also, parents in Northumberland have this week started to receive a detailed four-page letter from the council setting out a range of measures which aim to help students access post-16 education and how it is working closely with schools, colleges and bus companies.

For example, discussions have taken place with Arriva, the county’s principal supplier of bus services, and the company has agreed to introduce a new range of student travel tickets, while Northumberland College is to run a free bus service from Berwick via Alnwick.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Conservative group submitted a motion to the council calling for the policy board to suspend the decision to impose charges.

Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland Conservatives, said: “It is clear that the Labour-run county council needs to reconsider its position. Cancelling meetings to hide away from public transparency and accountability does great harm to the credibility of the council.”

Following a bid to force an extraordinary meeting to replace next week’s cancelled full-council meeting, it has been suggested it could take place on July 22.

But in a letter seen by the Gazette, from the council’s lead executive director for corporate resources, Steven Mason, to Coun Jackson, a number of problems relating to the motion and extraordinary meeting are raised.

In the letter, Mr Mason writes: ‘I regret that I cannot accept that these are items of substantive business which merit, from a head of paid service perspective, the calling of a meeting of full council under any circumstance.’

A Labour group spokesman said: “The politicking around the cancelled meeting will end up costing Northumberland’s taxpayers more.

“It seems the only winners from this will be expensive barristers and the losers will be the poor taxpayer.

“We’ve been clear about the reasons that have motivated the difficult decision to curtail post-16 transport and to cancel July’s council meeting.”