The Conservatives formed the new leadership and introduced five local area councils as the new Northumberland County Council met for the first time today.
At the meeting, Coun Peter Jackson was elected unopposed as the new leader of the county council.
The ward councillor for Ponteland South with Heddon was expected to take the top role given that he had led the Conservative group to its historic victory on May 4.
Reflecting on that win at the ballot box, he said that the relocation of County Hall to Ashington, now off, was a key issue, but ‘more than that, people felt ignored’.
He added that people were also concerned about the council’s ‘increasing debt’.
“We are going to deal with these legacy issues, but we actually see a bright future for our county,” he said. “I’m very optimistic and I hope that we will all go on this journey together.”
The new deputy leader is Coun Wayne Daley (Cramlington North) and the cabinet is completed by Coun Glen Sanderson (Longhorsley), Coun John Riddle (Bellingham), Coun Cath Homer (Hexham East), Coun Nick Oliver (Corbridge), Coun Richard Wearmouth (Morpeth Kirkhill) and Coun Veronica Jones (Ponteland West).
The new business chairman is Coun Richard Dodd (Ponteland North) with Coun Barry Flux (Cramlington West) as deputy. The new civic head of the council is Coun Anthony Murray (Wooler) and his deputy is Coun Jeff Watson (Amble West with Warkworth).
Also at this afternoon’s meeting, the introduction of five local area councils with decision-making powers and devolved budgets was approved.
This restructuring was the first piece of business for the new council and the move, which includes a reduction in the number of committees by eight, makes good on a manifesto pledge made by the Conservatives, now the largest group on the council.
Conservative and council leader, Peter Jackson, said it was about having ‘local decisions made by locally-elected members’.
“This is going to be a new and fresh way of doing council business,” he added.
Labour councillors voted against the proposals after reports of concerns from some of the communities/wards they represent, such as Choppington, Bothal and Seaton Valley.
The five areas are North Northumberland (green), Castle Morpeth (red), Tynedale (blue), Ashington and Blyth (yellow), and Cramlington and Bedlington (purple).
Coun Jackson previously said this was not a return to the district councils, but about ‘bridging the gap between an autocratic, centralised county council and communities’.
“We value the work that town and parish councils are doing and wish to work closely with them, it’s just to try and bridge that gap with a distant council that doesn’t engage, but should do,” he said.