ARCH: It must be transparent

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What a great letter from Hilton Dawson about Arch, (News Post Leader, December 22).

As Hilton states, it is certainly in our interests, as residents of this wonderful county, to see Arch succeed.

We are facing unprecedented funding cuts from central government, which are hitting us hard, and Arch can be a vehicle to financially dampen the effect of those cuts on council taxpayers.

However, there is widespread concern about Arch. It is seen by some as “the arch enemy”. All this proves is that it needs to be much more accountable and work for us all.

Newbiggin, where the library has been squeezed into the local sports centre rather than the promised town centre location, is a prime example of Arch and the county council going against the wishes of local people.

The way Arch is being run must change.

We need to see more transparency, we need the wishes of local people to be taken much more into account, and we need Arch to give something back to our communities on a local level.

Arch should be supplementing Northumberland County Council and helping us to keep key services open and available to residents, rather than investing in perceived vanity projects.

A key example of this is the recent cuts to the fire service.

We have seen the number of fire appliances in Northumberland reduced as part of wider fire service cuts to save around £500,000, which I believe could have a negative impact on the safety of residents.

Meanwhile, Arch has the funds to purchase Manor Walks Shopping Centre in Cramlington for a staggering £78m.

Putting life at risk when you can buy a shopping centre is simply unacceptable.

I also believe that every community where Arch is making money from public resources should see at least ten per cent of profits directly invested in local priorities, as decided by a local referendum.

This way we can give more back to communities and ensure that the wider public has a real say in what happens in its towns.

Arch could be a fantastic organisation that will benefit Northumberland, and hopefully one day we will see it reach its full potential.

Unfortunately, this seems unlikely under a Labour group which appears to be more concerned about boosting its ego on billboards than asking the people what they want.

I commend Hilton’s commitment to Newbiggin and hope to see more committed people come forward to stand up for their communities.

The North East Party is a progressive voice for the whole of Northumberland and I look forward to us challenging Labour and all the other London-based parties in 2017 and the years ahead.

Perhaps then we can truly make good places even better.

David Cockburn

The North East Party, Northumberland Branch