COUNCIL: Referendum a good idea:

The recent debate – or lack of it – on the new Northumberland County Council headquarters proposed for Ashington should be a real eye-opener for the electorate.

This is a massive move for the Labour group in control of the authority, and the matter should, at the very least, be given its own debate by the full council.

The quoted cost of around £33m is a lot of money to move from a building in Morpeththat is only 30 years old, especially when we consider the council is trying to save money by closing Haydon Bridge fire station and removing fire engines from stations across the county just to save £500,000, despite warnings from the Fire Brigades’ Union that lives could be lost.

What the Labour group is also keeping quiet about is the fact that it is sitting on reserves of around £160m, up £21m from the previous year.

However, it still insists on making cuts to public services and increasing our council tax by the maximum allowed amount each financial year.

The Labour group needs to prioritise. It needs to decide whether acting in the public interest and delivering vital services is more important to it than sitting in newer offices, and if it believes its policies are the way forward, then it should not be afraid to debate them.

In fact, in the case of the proposed Ashington HQ, I would urge councillors to go one step further and put the proposals to the public.

Let’s have a referendum.

David Cockburn,

The North East Party, Northumberland branch