In June 2014, Northumberland County Council (NCC) signed up to a Northumberland Town and Parish Council Charter.
In his foreword, Grant Davey, NCC leader, recognised ‘The significant role that Town and Parish Councils (T & PCs) have in the lives of Northumberland’s diverse communities’. NCC also recognised that T & PCs across Northumberland are the community’s hub and voice.
In its section on engagement, the Charter recognised that it was ‘essential NCC and T & PCs work together when making decisions to shape services and policies that affect Northumberland’s communities.
‘In order for this to be effective, engagement needs to be a genuine two-way listening process’.
Further, the council accepted it would regard town and parish councils ‘as statutory consultees in planning, licensing and highways matters’. What is more, it would consult T & PCs for a ‘minimum period of six weeks on all non-statutory consultations affecting them’.
Fine sentiments; fine words – all now worthless as the council now declares town and parish councils are not statutory consultees in planning matters, and seems hell bent on bringing in changes to its planning control system after a superficial two week consultation period. It has ignored clear requests for meaningful dialogue. There has been no ‘genuine two-way listening process’.
Clearly the Charter agreed less than a year ago is a dead letter. Ukrainian cease-fires will hopefully prove more durable.
Northumberland’s diverse communities will henceforth find it difficult to believe the sincerity of any council statement and any politician who has endorsed it.