Monday, 23 June 2014

Northumberland Council Shut Down: Labour responds - and you won't believe their reply

As regular readers will know Labour Councillors in Northumberland have came under fire for cancelling the July meeting of the Full Council to avoid scrutiny and debate on their plans to scrap free Post 16 transport, and a host of other key local issues.

Just after Labour leaders at Northumberland County Council were criticised for imposing the £600 "teenage tax" on students in post-16 education they announced the cancellation of the next meeting - at which some parents had planned a protest - citing a lack of business!

Full Council is the key meeting of the Council and happens just once a month. It is the democratic chance to hold the Council to account, debate key issues, and allow the public to make their case. With an August break there now won't be another meeting until September if Labour get their way. It's like the Prime Minister cancelling Prime Ministers Question Time.

Given the big issues going on at the moment, from the future of Hexham Bus Station to the collapse of the Council's greenbelt protections, citing a lack of business looked like Labour running scared, you wondered whether Northumberland Labour really was avoiding scrutiny and quite frankly lost the plot, just read their response to the criticism:

"I appreciate that not everyone will be happy with decisions that have been taken. There has been plenty of time for scrutiny and challenge. Arranging meetings with the sole purpose of creating opportunities for haranguing and maligning the legitimate actions of an elected body does nothing to build the reputation of the council as a responsible body taking difficult decisions.

"Where five councillors or more demand that a meeting takes place, we will have to hold one. But time would be better spent getting on with the business of managing challenging finances, as we must do, than criticising those who are doing their best in the worst of circumstances.”

Pretty shocking stuff. Northumberland's Labour Council would do well remember we are all servants to the public, not the other way round.