Council working for the residents

I FIND I must respond to three letters printed in last week’s News Post Leader (March 10).

Firstly the attempt by John McCormack to cast the Lib Dem administration at County Hall as the villains of the piece as far as the condition and future of Ashington Leisure Centre is concerned.

I would remind him that he was part of the regime that, for 35 years, refused to invest in the facility.

Wansbeck District Council, of which he was once leader, could at any time have invested any amount of money to give the people of Ashington a leisure facility to be proud of.

Instead, they invested in a variety of schemes and unsustainable projects that have compounded Ashington’s decline.

I can’t imagine why Wansbeck Council refused to invest in the people of Ashington’s health and well-being, but I fear political dogma and a lack of vision may have had something to do with it.

Fortunately the current administration at County Hall suffers from none of these. However, it takes time to assemble what is required to deliver a lasting and sustainable facility.

In the meantime we have invested the following in Ashington Leisure Centre:

n A new bowls green;

n New disabled hoist for the swimming pool;

n Sky TV in the institute;

n New boiler in the institute;

n Replacement windows;

n Repair of a long-standing leak in the bowls hall roof;

n £20,000 of repairs to the heating and ventilation systems;

n Improved lighting, ceiling and wall tiles;

n New cubicle curtains to the swimming-pool changing rooms;

n New music system in the studio.

The list goes on, but having made my point I shall stop there.

The second letter bemoans the fact that Ashington has experienced a shocking decline in the quantity and quality of shops.

To some extent I would agree, but a careful look will show that most of the national retailers have a presence in the town.

The council has a strategic plan in the form of a supplementary planning document for the town.

But it requires a private sector input that, at the moment, is not forthcoming.

The council tries its best to maintain a balance of retail, charity and food outlets but can only pass judgement on the applications it receives.

The regeneration of Ashington is a council priority but it takes time to overcome 35 years of inertia.

Finally Derek Thompson. As in Parliament, the budget speech is delivered by the person who has portfolio responsibility for the budget. In that case it is the chancellor of the exchequer, in ours it is the executive member for corporate affairs.

My job is to defend the budget if called upon to do so during the debate.

As the poverty of Labour’s argument became apparent, there was no need for me to speak in our defence.

The country has been left in a catastrophic financial mess and we have done our best to produce a budget that protects front-line services and delivers a 0% rise in council tax for the hard working families of Northumberland.

I have been accused of a lot of things in my political life but, until now, living in an ivory tower is not one of them.



Northumberland County Council