Political storm blows up around Rothbury landslide cash

Community and business leaders at site of the Rothbury landslip following the announcement of a repair scheme.
Community and business leaders at site of the Rothbury landslip following the announcement of a repair scheme.

With a little more than 100 days to go to the election, the repair of the Rothbury landslip is among the latest squabbles between the Tories and Labour.

In December, we reported that work to repair the landslide at Crag End, costing around £9million, is scheduled to begin in February.

The original budget for the scheme stood at £7.6million, which included £4.9million of government funding, but the council has had to commit a further £1.5million.

Now the Tories have criticised Labour’s Scott Dickinson, parliamentary candidate for Berwick and the county council’s business chairman, for politicising the Rothbury landslip.

Coun Dickinson highlighted the extra £1.5million for the scheme pledged by the Labour administration in the budget.

“It’s welcome news that this tough budget will stump up over £1.5million to complete the Rothbury works and I’m confident that we’re now in the final phase of what has been a very frustrating episode.

“We’ve had to strip over £44million from the council budget because of ConDem cuts and now we’ve got to find another £3million.

“My Conservative opponent may think that’s a fair deal for Northumberland, but I’m pleased to say the Rothbury landslip cash is safe.

“The challenge to local Tories is whether they’re going to back this budget or will they try and block schemes like the Rothbury landslip.”

But Conservative group leader Peter Jackson has been scathing in response, blaming the delays in coming up with a scheme, which is set to start next month, on the county council.

“The delays in the Rothbury scheme have been down to the county council taking so long to come up with a scheme,” he said.

“When the Government was asked for special funding, it agreed right away and did not delay for years on end.

“Here we have Labour trying to politicise an important issue for Rothbury where there has been cross-party consensus in the county council from day one.”

He also criticised Coun Dickinson’s economic illiteracy, saying: “He seems to have forgotten that this top-up for the Rothbury road rebuild is capital spending from the capital budget of the council, which has actually been freed from Government control.

“So the people of Rothbury can rest assured that the £3million for their road has little to do with the savings over a number of years from the council’s revenue budget.

“The fact is that this amount has been found from the existing highways capital budget and all parties have supported that.”