Services we take over must be in good order

PLANS to transfer services in a poor condition to parish councils have been slammed by councillors in Rothbury.

Over the last few months, parish and town councils have been in discussion with Northumberland County Council about the transfer of local services.

The change means that the county council will no longer be responsible for items such as bus shelters, play areas and, in some places, public toilets.

But at last week’s Rothbury Parish Council meeting, members hit out after hearing that services will be handed over in their present state despite asking for them to be brought up to an acceptable condition.

Coun Mark Gilson said: “Why should we have to accept something that is substandard from them?

“How much are they going to deduct from my basic council tax if we will have to pay extra into the Rothbury pot?”

Parish and county councillor Steven Bridgett said: “This is something that has been discussed at nearly all of the parish councils that I have been to.

“Councils are happy for services to be transferred as long as they are done so in an acceptable condition and they will then take on the long-term maintenance.

“I find it difficult that the county council has spent £67million on capital projects, on things such as a new leisure centre for Ashington, among other projects, but it cannot spare a few hundred thousand to bring some of the basic services up to an acceptable state.

“It would only be a very small amount of what they have squandered in this financial year.

“If the parish council doesn’t take them on, they will be left and then demolished.”

Concern was also raised about public toilets on the village’s Riverside being demolished if the council doesn’t take them on.

Coun Helen Edes said: “They are well-used and they are clearly adequate.

“I know they don’t have disabled access but we can put a notice on them to say that there are disabled facilities at Bridge Street.”

But Coun Bridgett said that the county council has been unable to insure the facility because it is on a flood plain, meaning that if they are damaged in the future the parish council would be responsible for the cost of repairing them.

Coun Alan Fendley added: “The county council does have increasing costs.

“If they don’t like it, they are going to leave things to fall into neglect or demolish them – I am beginning to wonder who is running this county.”

The council has also been asked to contribute £15 per year for five public benches in the village.

Coun Reynalds added that it would be interesting to see what other parishes thought about the transfer of services.

The council is to raise the issue at the next Coquetdale Parish Cluster meeting.