Councillor condemns hasty council HQ sale

Northumberland Conservatives have heavily criticised plans to proceed with the sale of the land County Hall stands on.

Tuesday, 13th September 2016, 9:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:01 pm
Gregah Roughead

Concerns have been raised that plans to move Northumberland County Council’s headquarters from Morpeth to Ashington will make residents in the rural north even further removed from power.

Gregah Roughead, the prospective Conservative and Unionist’s candidate for Berwick West with Ord, said: “Many people in north Northumberland find it difficult to fathom why the county council is acting in this way.

“A contractor has not yet been appointed to build the new Council HQ in Ashington, yet there is what only can be described as unseemly haste, to dispose of the County Hall site now, despite the fact the council will not be in a position to re-locate for at least two years. This is not a “windfall ” as claimed by the council, this is a further drain on a stretched council.

“I particularly object to this as essential daily services are cut in Berwick and the county council’s spending is so directed towards Ashington and Blyth, more or less ignoring Berwick and the northern communities.

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“With the county council also planning on withdrawing funding for the early X15 bus services from Berwick, it may be harder for people from north Northumberland to be able to get to the new council HQ in Ashington for 9am by public transport to access services they need.

“Moving County Hall from Morpeth, a town that is accessible to most major settlements in Northumberland within one or two bus journeys can be seen as an attempt to cut the north, west and rural areas out of the decision making process.

“For instance north area planning applications used to be discussed at committee meetings held in Alnwick and now the decisions are made by a committee based in Morpeth.

So under the administration’s plans does this mean the county council is asking resident to travel on a 100-plus mile round trip to be able to voice their opinions or make representation at meeting on local planning applications.”

Leader of Northumberland Conservatives Peter Jackson said: “The fingerprints of Council Leader Grant Davey are all over this patently political manoeuvre. He is putting taxpayers money at stake to sell the Council’s land in a quick fire sale in a petty attempt to thwart the plans of any incoming administration to stop the costly and unpopular plans to build a new HQ.

“Any competent council lawyers drafting any agreement with a prospective purchaser will, as a matter of course, include a break clause, due to the likely change in administration after the elections in May. Failure to do so would be a serious failure. If the inclusion of such a clause was not included due to political pressure, then any individual involved will have serious questions to answer.

“I reiterate in the clearest terms possible, a vote for the Conservatives in May, is a vote to stop this wasteful scheme and ensure all areas of our County get their fair share.”