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Thursday, 28 May 2015

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Tynedale: Labour defiant at Tory jibes

A BID to avoid “Punch and Judy politics” was behind the decision to axe next month’s scheduled meeting of Northumberland County Council.

The council’s Labour administration has been roundly condemned and accused of running scared after calling off the meeting.

Labour claimed there was no business to discuss, even though parents were keen to attend to protest about the imposition of a £600 fee for sixth formers to ride on school buses,decisions were pending on the future of Hexham bus station and questions were being asked about the authority’s pledge to rid the county of potholes by the end on June.

However, the administration has acknowledged that if five councillors seek a meeting, the authority is obliged to hold one.

Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman questioned the legality of the move, but council leader Grant Davey remained defiant as the storm raged round him.

He said: “There is nothing unusual or illegal about cancelling unnecessary meetings.

“We are managing the enormous pressures of an organisation undergoing massive change.

“We will not have meetings for the sake of meetings. We have completed the work we need to finish before the summer.

“Setting aside time for Punch and Judy politics is a waste of council money.”

While he appreciated that not everyone would be happy with decisions that had been taken, there had been plenty of time for scrutiny and challenge.

Letters were being sent to parents pointing out the additional actions the council was taking to help mitigate the impact of the change in policy on post-16 transport

He said: “Arranging meetings with the sole purpose of creating opportunities for haranguing and maligning the legitimate actions of an elected body does nothing to build the reputation of the council as a responsible body taking difficult decisions.

“I am genuinely surprised that cancelling a meeting is being described as illegal. All experienced councillors will know that meetings are routinely cancelled where there is no business to be done.

“Where five councillors or more demand that a meeting takes place, we will have to hold one.

“But time would be better spent getting on with the business of managing challenging finances, as we must do, than criticising those who are doing their best in the worst of circumstances.”