One of county’s lowest precepts

WITH regard to the letter writer (News Post Leader, September 1) complaining about the consultation on services in Seaton Valley.

It is interesting but annoying that they refuse to read council documents properly or the consultation documents. Perhaps it is my fault that the documents were not plain enough.

Once again let’s go over history, which the writer is aware of.

Seaton Valley Council was formed by the current county council more than two years ago after several meetings organised through Blyth Valley Council.

I was one of those who vehemently opposed such parish councils being formed, but in the interests of providing some sort of local council to the people of Seaton Valley I supported them, knowing what was coming our way.

Yes, you have had a 43 per cent rise in precept. The first year’s was to pay for elections and engage a clerk – which similar to all the other 154 parish councils we now have in place.

And yes, all these steps were discussed before the county even formed the parish councils, what a facile position to take – let’s not have a clerk, let’s not do anything for the people here.

As a matter of interest, we have one of the lowest precepts in the county.

The correspondent keeps reeling out the percentage argument – yes it was a 43 per cent rise, but with such a low base budget this meant a rise of £5 a year or just under 10p a week if you prefer.

I am not going go over the lists of services we provide, the correspondent can give me a call or better still make his concerns known to the council meetings.

The consultations are something else, the writer wants us to spend £5,000 on an independent consultation. Give me strength.

The results of this consultation will be known for the September meeting which is published on our notice boards, website and will be in the News Post Leader in a couple of weeks.

I am glad the writer thought everything ran smoothly before 2009, as I was part of the executive on Blyth Valley Council and was at the front of calls for the single council to be thrown out.

The county council has never been a local council, and I wondered at the time why they wanted to take over all the district council functions – it was, I have said on various occasions, down simply to the fear of losing allowances. That is why we are left with such a huge white elephant that very few wanted.

The Liberal Democrat run county stated locally it wanted to achieve ‘world class services’ and immediately started to run them down – the list of services it has cut is horrendous and affects the core of public services provided to Seaton Valley.

This was well before the financial crisis – but has proven to be a further catalyst for cuts which Liberal Democrats are revelling in.

We have ensured that every house in Seaton Valley receives a consultation form to find out which of the services people value.

The hundreds I have spoken to value the whole list very highly.

The letter writer cherry picks bus shelters, grass cutting and litter bins as not being of value – do they count into that the playgrounds and public toilets?

The county council executive at a recent meeting said to me it will close if we do not take them on. When queried about this, its stated position is ‘they will be left to rot’. That is where we are today.

We have a choice, we all have a choice. The parish council will decide on the basis of the returns and its own discussion with the people, whether or not we take on these services.

If we decide not to support, in effect, this double taxation, the services which in the following financial year could include youth service provision, parks, community centres and playing fields will close.

Be in no doubt whatsoever about this, we are not looking to take over services with such a crippling levy on the people of Seaton Valley, we would rather the budget, used to run these liabilities, followed the transfer of services so we did not raise the total tax bill at all.

This the county council has stated is not for discussion – these funds will go elsewhere.

This position is being faced by all eight of the new parish councils in the south east of Northumberland.

It is unfortunate that ill-informed opinion is being used to raise arguments when a phone call would answer the questions.

And for the avoidance of any doubt, the ‘special expenses’ is placed on the bill by the county council to pay for children’s playgrounds because we refused to raise our precept to take them over.

As angry as I am about these impending cuts, my ire is not directed at the letter writer but with the infantile approach to service delivery shown by the Liberal Democrats at County Hall and the scale of disregard and contempt shown to the public in this area.

BOB WATSON

Chairman

Seaton Valley Council