Seeking a trust review

An open letter to Coun Seymour, Roughead and Hill.

Saturday, 6th October 2018, 9:00 am

I received your letter as a positive contribution to the proposals for investment in Berwick.

The three of you, as the county councillors for Berwick, have been making representations for investment in Berwick on many issues from the day of your election.

I did promise when I became leader of the county council that the local voice would be heard. Amongst other things, I proposed the introduction of Local Area Councils to provide a forum for that local voice.

The county council has introduced closer relations with your town council and instituted the Berwick Regeneration Commission with a view to revitalising the town, which has been neglected for so many of the last 40 years.

With particular reference to the county council’s current proposal to invest £20million in a new leisure centre on the current site, both the chief executive of the county council and I have been pleased to hear your voice on the issues, as well as taking into account local views, which have been given to us in our consultations.

I am happy to show that we are willing to listen to local concerns and we have been heartened to hear that most residents in Berwick welcome the news of significant investment proposals in their town.

There are several considerations, which I share with you.

First, we at the county council have ambitious plans for the new leisure centre and we will have to make sure that there is as little disruption as possible to facilities, such as the playing pitches. We are also conscious to provide adequate parking on the site and we wish to extend complimentary council provision on the site related to supporting health and wellbeing.

In addition, I have understood residents’ concerns that a shared site could well result in a delay in Berwick having its new hospital and I appreciate that this is a serious issue. Berwick has waited too long now for such an investment and we must all work together to ensure that a new hospital can be built without further delay.

Residents would like to see an expansion of services at their new hospital so we must all work together to see that there is room for expansion available for this on any new hospital site.

So, after our latest review of the situation, I will make representations to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust to request that it reviews its plans and urgently looks at an alternative stand-alone site for the new Berwick hospital.

I reiterate that any decision relating to health services is for the health trust alone and this is not a decision for the county council.

There have been ongoing issues about access to health services in Berwick since the opening of the new A&E in Cramlington. The decision at that time of siting that facility so far South was made with the assent of the then ruling Liberal Democrat administration at the county council, which did include Berwick councillors in positions of responsibility for these matters.

However, although we cannot undo the past, I continue to wish to work with local residents to come up with the best outcomes possible for Berwick.

I welcome the chance to have further dialogue with the three of you as the local county councillors in the near future to work on detailed plans for a new leisure centre that Berwick will be proud of and to make sure that a new hospital is delivered as soon as possible.

Coun Peter Jackson

Leader of Northumberland County Council