Money can be better spent
I sometimes wonder if Grant Davey and I belong to the same Labour Party.
His defence of the purchase of a shopping mall in Cramlington does not make sense.
Northumberland County Council borrows £78million from the Government, re-lends it at a higher rate of interest to Arch, and he claims that he makes a profit on the difference.
But the county council owns Arch so he is lending the money to himself. Where’s the profit?
With all such schemes, the day of reckoning will come.
The gamble is that the shopping mall can make enough rental income to repay the debt.
Hammerson’s, which sold the mall, complete with “an enhanced dining offer with restaurants Prezzo and Frankie and Benny’s”, seems well pleased with the disposal. I only hope that Northumberland County Council can say the same when it needs to repay £78million to the Government, especially as over the last four years Arch has made a loss.
The more important question is why is a Labour local authority borrowing outrageous sums of money to speculate on shopping malls, hotels and office blocks?
In Berwick a fraction of that money, together with the £5million wasted on Walkergate, which was supposed to be the site of our new FE college, could have saved Seton Hall adult care home, helped to develop a multi-agency NHS infirmary integrated with adult care services, built a transport hub at Berwick Station, built a heritage and visitor centre to attract tourists from across the globe, and completed the long promised refurbishment of the Swan Centre.
I believe in Socialist principles. Government should be about directing resources to deliver services – education, health, transport, security – and working with the private sector to create jobs and prosperity, not using public money for property speculation.
Peter Jackson is right to criticise the way that Northumberland County Council is run, but the Conservative Party is responsible for austerity and the resultant misery that has been caused to many, a catastrophic NHS re-organisation that undermined patient care and wasted billions, seizing direct control of over 50 per cent of our schools, which has led to falling standards, and destroying our trade links with the EU.
We need a Labour administration, but one that listens to local people and delivers public services in Northumberland.