Leader’s joke that fell flat

Jeff Reid.
Jeff Reid.

CALLS have been made for the leader of Northumberland County Council to resign over a ‘joke’ email in which he said the rebuilding of an Alnwick school depended on a controversial parking strategy being passed.

An attempt by the Conservatives to formally censure Jeff Reid, who heads the Liberal Democrat Executive at County Hall, was dramatically blocked by his party’s chairman last Wednesday, sparking howls of protest from opposition councillors.

They claimed that Coun Reid had betrayed public trust in his off-the-cuff remark to Alnwick member Gordon Castle, following an email in which he was asked about how the council would support a Government bid to replace the ageing Duchess’s Community High School.

Coun Reid replied: “Depends on if we have a car parking strategy or not.”

Leader of Northumberland Conservatives, Coun Peter Jackson, attempted to propose a motion of censure against the council leader at a meeting discussing the parking strategy, but chairman George Todd used a point of procedure to prevent the motion being proposed or debated.

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Castle said: “Local people that I have spoken to are angered by what Jeff Reid has said about blocking funding for our high school and are extremely dubious about his attempt to pass it off as a joke.

“This council meeting was an opportunity for him to explain himself to the public. Instead, the Lib Dems have decided that the best way to deal with this issue is by banning councillors from openly debating what has happened.”

Coun Jackson added: “It is nothing short of a scandal that Jeff Reid is hiding behind council procedure to avoid questioning on this crucial issue. I am angry to be denied the opportunity to hold him to account and embarrassed to be part of an organisation that thinks it is acceptable to do business in this way.

“People in Northumberland now know the real reason why the council has not committed money to a rebuild of their local schools. In the absence of a formal apology, and in the absence of the leader being willing to be held publicly accountable for his actions, the only honourable thing for him to do is to resign his position as leader of the council.”