Mini Tynedale Council gathers pace
Published at 07:38, Wednesday, 06 March 2013
DESPITE being dismissed by county council bosses as “nuts”, plans to recreate a mini Tynedale Council are gathering pace.
Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman was ridiculed when he suggested in the House of Commons that the new unitary Northumberland County Council should be scrapped, and Tynedale revived.
However, he said this week he had been overwhelmed by the public support for his proposals.
He said: “On the face of it, local government reorganisation is hardly the most exciting topic, but it clearly taps into something deeper amongst local people – a sense our area has been forgotten about under the new county council.
“I really don’t think we can go on with things the way they are.”
Mr Opperman said he fully appreciated how difficult it would be to bring back the old district and county system – but that did not mean Tynedale residents just had to stick to the system imposed upon it by the previous Labour Government.
He said: “There is clearly an opportunity to build on the sense of community that exists in the old Tynedale district area.”
He argued that could be achieved by beefing up the role of the county’s already existing west area committee.
It consists of all 17 councillors representing Tynedale and Ponteland, and meets on a monthly basis – but has no budgetary powers.
Mr Opperman said: “The bosses at County Hall have said Tynedale can’t come back, but they already have the perfect vehicle to deliver more power and financial control back to Tynedale by beefing up the west area committee into a powerful local body.
“It would surely be a win for everyone – the only reason I think anyone would oppose it is because they want to keep their hands on local people’s money.”
Mr Opperman said that the committee structure could be revamped to involve town and parish councillors as well as county councillors.
The committee could take a leading role on all decisions affecting Tynedale and have a “substantial” budget to spend within the area on local services such as grass cutting, street cleaning and road maintenance.
Mr Opperman added: “Priorities and budgets could once again be set at a local level.
“We saw recently the Lib Dem leader of the council Jeff Reid saying I spend too much time complaining about potholes.
“I do complain a lot, but that’s because they are a real problem for us here in the west.
“Fair enough, I appreciate things might be different in Blyth or Ashington, but that is why we need to set our priorities locally – and have the budget to back them up.”
The MP’s stance was backed by Hexham’s Coun. Terry Robson, who said: “The county council has handed responsibility for some services, such as play areas to Hexham Town Council, but with no actual budget to back it up.
“That’s just passing us the bill. What we really need is more power and devolved budgets from County Hall to allow us to deliver locally on the services people actually want.”
Coun. Robson said devolution would not only guarantee a better service, focused more on local needs but also give people better value for money, as it would cut out the layers of management currently occupying County Hall in Morpeth.
He said: “We have much of the infrastructure left over from Tynedale to get this all new powerful local committee going and if the Conservatives win the local elections in May, I hope it will be one of the first things we do.
“Our plan would also bring back some of the local jobs that have been lost in Hexham in particular.
“Up to 300 jobs have been drained from the Hexham economy as a result of the Lib Dems’ centralisation to County Hall and the south east after the local government reorganisation.”
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk