Big difference in priorities

Peter Jackson appeared proud to claim that the cabinet meeting at the Swan Centre in Tweedmouth on Monday was the first the county council has ever held outside Morpeth, and it was painfully obvious.

Monday, 17th September 2018, 9:00 am

The members seemed genuinely surprised that people in Berwick wanted to engage with them, seemed unwilling to enter into that engagement (at least on the record) and were clearly unprepared – not even a microphone.

Prior notification of the meeting had given a clear indication that the one agenda item would be the proposals for co-location of a new hospital with a leisure centre. Yet Peter Jackson claimed at the outset that the meeting was only on the topic of a new leisure centre, shutting down any discussion of the hospital.

Despite his claim, the two votes that were held were both on topics of co-location – a vote that the new leisure centre should incorporate adult learning services, and a vote that Northumberland County Council should proceed with a joint venture with Northumbria Healthcare Trust, subject to approval of a business plan.

It seems that, yet again, there is a huge difference between what the community of Berwick needs, and what external bodies, such as the council or NHS trust, think we need.

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In any list of ‘things that Berwick needs’, a new leisure centre would be way down the priorities. At the top of the list, now and at every time for the last 15-20 years, is a new hospital, with services reinstated to a level they used to be.

Promising that a hospital will retain the existing level of services when those services have been run down repeatedly over the last 15 years, is missing the point.

Both the current Tory administration and the Labour opposition at the county council need to realise that there is no demand from Berwick for a new leisure centre; that there is no appetite for any joint venture with the healthcare trust; and both will be vote-losers.

Thomas Stewart

Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate