DCSIMG

Post-16 protest scuppered by council decision

Sue Patterson and other post 16 transport charge protestors outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick.
Picture Jane Coltman

Sue Patterson and other post 16 transport charge protestors outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick. Picture Jane Coltman

Council chiefs have come under fire for cancelling a meeting at which parents had planned to protest about post-16 transport charges.

The Labour administration at Northumberland County Council have been heavily criticised for introducing travel charges of up to £600 for sixth form and college students.

Some parents had planned to voice their dissatisfaction at the authority’s next full council meeting on July 3 - only to be scuppered by its cancellation.

Labour claim the decision was taken due to insufficient business but Conservative leader Peter Jackson, who has asked the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate, said it was an attempt to shut down debate.

Councillor Jackson said: “I have been truly shocked by the county council’s attempts to shut down debate and scrutiny of their actions.

“There are many important decisions the council has been taking recently of great importance to residents, including controversial plans for a new County Hall in Ashington, implementing a £600 teenage tax, and the apparent collapse of our Local Development Plan.

“To suggest there is insufficient business to be discussed is surely taking a head in the sand mentality. It can not be right the council’s administration can hide away in this manner.”

Given the authority traditionally has a break in August, cancelling the July meeting means the council will not meet again until September.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwick, raised concerns that just three full council meetings have been held in Northumberland this year.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith added: “I have to ask whether we now have a zombie Council in Northumberland. Labour councillors are constantly blaming the Government when they have to make difficult decisions and now it seems they are not prepared to meet and make any decisions at all.”

Labour defended its stance, arguing the decision would save the council £18,000 in officer time and travel allowances among other costs.

A Labour spokesman said: “The administration took the decision to cancel the July meeting because there was no business to transact.

“There were no motions nor questions submitted by opposition parties and the decision to end free post 16 transport had already been taken.

“It wasn’t an easy decision but we must remind residents across the county that we must find £130m ‘savings’ over the next four years due to unfair coalition cuts.

“Residents will rightly raise questions over the differing motives of Conservatives who have kept mum over coalition cuts to their communities and now seek to portray ‘faux’ outrage to a decision they would have made if they formed an administration last year.”

 

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