COUNCIL: Making our county better

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While drawing a line under June Watson’s letters on support for community facilities by the county council (Northumberland Gazette, August 11), on behalf of the many people who appreciate them, I must correct her comments.

The £78million purchase of the county’s most popular shopping centre by the development company Arch – several million pounds less than she claims – is intended to actually make money, thereby funding even more improvements across all Northumberland.

The council’s direct involvement is limited to borrowing money at the very low rates that it can access, then loaning it on to Arch at a higher rate, generating extra income for the county. In shopping terms, it’s a bargain.

Rather than continually “accusing the Government of cuts”, as Ms Watson alleges, the council administration is exploring creative ways of making this great county even better within the harsh financial climate – building up services, attracting investment and returning the benefit to communities both large and small.

As to her comments on the returning of key services to local market towns, by closing the increasingly costly current site and building a compact, far more efficient County Hall in Ashington, the county council will save residents £16million over the next 25 years, with the project backed up as value-for-money by world-leading auditors Ernst and Young.

Shoring up the outdated headquarters outside Morpeth would have cost £54million, whereas its town centre replacement will come in at £36million in the same period, and be far more accessible to many more residents. It is clearly not an “£80million move”, as Ms Watson claims.

It’s time for us all to work together to build an even better Northumberland, from shopping centre to community centre. That will undoubtedly mean doing some things differently, both large and small-scale.

No resident need be wary of that challenge, nor misinformed about its many benefits.

Coun Scott Dickinson,

Member for Druridge Bay