POLITICS: Questions for councillor

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Whilst looking through your letters section to read residents’ opinions on local issues, I was left profoundly confused by Coun Gordon Castle’s letter (Northumberland Gazette, March 2).

I was confused by his less-than-robust defence of his leader Peter Jackson’s budget concerns and manifesto, to which Coun Castle is signed up.

The letter of explanation from Coun Castle about the Conservatives’ behaviour on budget day at County Hall only added to my suspicion that local Tories are at sixes and sevens when it comes to the finances of Northumberland.

Could I remind him that if the decisions made by the Northumberland Tories, and the disastrous effects I believe they would have on Alnwick, go against his true feelings and political ideals, he should run as an independent candidate, as he has done in the past?

He does make a valid point regarding electoral campaigns and the need for them to remain professional.

However, it concerns me greatly that Coun Castle may see public criticism or questioning of his actions as ‘unnecessary negativity’.

It is my opinion that, as elected officials, all councillors should be held accountable for their actions.

Coun Castle’s claim that he was in a ‘no-win’ situation with the budget vote is not right. He did not have to vote against the budget and could have broken his Conservative Party whip.

He and his team voted in support of an amendment to the budget that I believe could have set the council on the road to bankruptcy, privatisation and years of contractual legal wrangling with many different bodies, including the Homes and Communities Agency, BT, Northern Coalfields Property Company and Galliford Try developers, to name but a few.

He and his team voted against a Labour budget for growth, developing a stronger local economy to create and safeguard jobs and to protect the delivery of services in Northumberland.

He failed to submit an alternative way of financing the schemes he says he supports, such as Alnwick Playhouse and the redistribution of council services from Morpeth back to market towns like Alnwick, which will benefit the people of the town through jobs and doorstep services.

Residents in Alnwick will be confused by this ‘hokey-cokey’ position of Coun Castle – he supports Labour-created schemes then votes against funding for these schemes. He keeps publicly voicing support for projects such as the Alnwick Playhouse, yet votes against it when it counts most.

An elected official has but one real influencing power – their vote.

I have a few direct questions for Coun Castle.

Do you support the scrapping of Arch as outlined in your election manifesto?

How will you plug the resulting £25million gap in the council finances?

How and when are you planning on telling residents in Alnwick that, through voting against the budget, you supported your party’s attempt to stop Labour investing in The Playhouse, upgrading and improving council houses, building affordable homes and providing jobs and local services?

And finally, upon scrapping of Arch can you please explain what you plan to do with more than 1,000 tenants living in Arch homes, many of whom have raised their concerns and anxieties with me, desperately hoping that the Conservatives are not able to make good on this manifesto pledge?

I eagerly await Coun Castle’s response.

James Matthewson,

Labour Party candidate for Alnwick Ward