Towns across Northumberland are to share in more than £55,000 of additional community clean-up funding.
This award for the county council comes from the Government’s £10million High Streets Community Clean-Up Fund and will be used to help existing groups to carry out community-led street and town-centre cleans.
Around £12,000 of the funding will be used for graffiti-removal kits that will be offered free to community groups; litter-picking equipment for the existing loan scheme or permanently for litter champions; Love Northumberland-branded tabards; and prizes for winners at the Love Northumberland awards.
The remaining funds will be distributed through the towns of Morpeth, Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham, Blyth, Ashington, Cramlington, Ponteland, West Bedlington, Haltwhistle, Prudhoe and Amble to organise clean-up events.
Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for the environment and local services, said: “I am grateful to the Government for this useful award of funding.
“We’re so proud of our high streets and want to do all we can to keep them looking clean and tidy.
“We invest millions each year dealing with litter in our county, but we all have our part to play and this extra funding will help this.
“We have very good relationships with our town councils and hope they will all come on board with their own projects to keep the county looking its best over the coming months.”
But a Labour councillor has questioned the way in which the county council has decided to share this money around.
Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the Labour group, welcomed the funding in general, saying: “It’s all good stuff and Northumberland County Council has done better than its neighbours with a grant of £55,925.”
But in reference to the decision to split the bulk of the funding between the 12 large towns, he added: “I’m not sure how the Government did its sums at a national level, but something seems to have gone wrong at county level.
“It makes you wonder if anyone actually looked at the litter problem across the county and thought ‘let’s allocate it where it’s needed most’. It doesn’t look like it.”
Responding to these concerns, a council spokesman said: “We’re well aware of the excellent work taking place across Northumberland by individuals and groups to keep their local areas tidy.
“Following the letter we received from central government outlining their criteria for spending this money supporting activity on high streets and in town centres, we decided that the best way to meet that criteria was to distribute some of the money through the 12 ‘main’ town councils.
“We did this as it’s consistent with the definition of town as used to assess eligibility for the Future High Street Fund, which this is linked to, and work that we are doing on town-centre regeneration across the county.
“We also ensured that £12,000 was retained by the county council for work with existing groups which can be used for extra equipment, protective clothing and prizes. This is in addition to the long-standing support the council has offered all community litter-picking groups in picking up and disposing of the rubbish they collect and providing free equipment.
“We’d ask any groups who want more information on how we can help to get in touch.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service