'North Korea' criticism thrown at council leader after asking members not to criticise the council

The leader of Northumberland County Council has come under fire after he implored members to stop criticising the authority, with one member suggesting it was reminiscent of North Korea.

By James Robinson
Monday, 9th May 2022, 5:05 pm
Cllr Glen Sanderson.

The comment was made by Cllr Georgina Hill, who previously said the council had “all gone a bit North Korea” in 2020 when former leader Peter Jackson was facing criticism for suspending the council’s CEO Daljit Lally.

This time, Cllr Hill had asked council leader Glen Sanderson about the progress of plans to cut £1 million from the council’s substantial wage budget.

The cut was included in the council’s budget, and Cllr Sanderson reiterated his commitment to the plan after it was revealed twenty employees at the authority were being paid more than £100,000 a year.

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Speaking at the full council meeting last Thursday, Cllr Sanderson said: “I said I wanted to have a view of the senior management structure because I feel that there are too many interims and I regretted very much that so many full time staff have left.

“I want to say something about interims. I’m hugely proud of these officers, as I am of all our staff. Every single one of them. That’s why I do regret very much the sort of practice and habit of some members who continually find it pleasurable to find fault with the council.

“What one or two members have to remember is, everything you have a go at the council every time you leak a document, you are not actually helping anything. You are actually hitting the reputation of this council when we have investors wanting to come here.

“Most importantly of all you’re hitting the sensitivity of our staff. Each and every one of them. I would really ask that some stop this negative stuff.”

Cllr Sanderson also referenced “anonymous blogs” that “constantly peddle nasty stuff” but declined to reveal the identity of those behind the blogs.

He added that the council was making good progress with the review, and said: “This is a situation we must deal with, and I’ve made it quite clear we would have to find the money.

“If I can help it, I will do my very best to make sure we the only savings in staffing is carried out voluntarily.”

Responding to Cllr Sanderson’s comments, Berwick East’s Cllr Hill said she would continue to criticise the council if she felt it was necessary.

She said: “I don’t want to dust off my old North Korea analogy, but you seem to think people aren’t entitled to criticise the council. I will compliment you when good things are done, I’ve complimented you when good things have been done in Berwick.

“If there’s grounds for criticism, and there’s been plenty of grounds for criticism over the last two years under your administration, I will say it. There is such a thing called freedom of speech.

“I, and everyone else is perfectly entitled to criticise when it is justified.”