Monday, 4 March 2013

How to make localism happen - the Tynedale way

Tynedale DC is much missed, and Lord Prescott a dirty word for his actions regarding Tynedale district council. I have been overwhelmed by the number of people getting in touch on this issue. Everyone appreciates how difficult it would be to bring back the old District and County system straight away. However, that doesn't mean we just have to stick the present system we have. Between Tynedale DC and NCC there is clearly a middle ground that would make a huge difference.

There is clearly an opportunity to build on the sense of community that exists in the old Tynedale district area. How? We could hand over a chunk of the County Council's budget and decision making to a local Committee based on the old District Councils. The County Council's West Area Committee is currently part of Northumberland County Council made up of Councillors from Tynedale and Ponteland. This is the perfect vehicle to deliver more power and financial control back to to Tynedale by beefing up the West Area Committee into a powerful local body.
 
The devolution of these powers would be to a local decision body, possibly including representatives from Town and Parish Councils as well as County Councillors based on the current West Area Committee. At present the West Area Committee is purely a discussion forum with very limited powers; the West Area Committee would take a leading role on all decisions affecting Tynedale and have a substantial budget to spend within the area. The County Council would devolve actual budgets and responsibility for many local services such as grass cutting, street cleaning and road maintenance.
Priorities and budgets could once again be set at a local level.
 
Terry Robson, former Mayor of Hexham and County Councillor for Hexham Central backed the plans saying
"The County Council has handed responsibility for some services, such as play areas to Hexham Town Council, however with no actual budget to back it up. That's just passing the bill. What we really need is more power and devolved budgets from County Hall to allow us to deliver locally on the services people actually want. This would not only guarantee a better service, focused more on local needs but also give people better value for money as it would cut out the layers of management that are currently occupying County Hall in Morpeth. We have much of the infrastructure left over from Tynedale to get this all new powerful local committee going and if the Conservatives win the election I hope it will be one of the first things we do. We may be stuck with the Unitary structure but it doesn't mean we can't alter that structure to work for local people. Our plan would also bring back some of the local jobs that have been lost in Hexham in particular. Up to 300 jobs have been drained from the Hexham economy as a result of the Lib Dems' centralisation to County Hall and the south east after the local government reorganisation."