Conservatives force council to adopt a more business-friendly approach

Northumberland Conservatives have achieved a significant victory in the campaign to allow businesses to advertise on the roadside. After Conservative pressure, Northumberland County Council is amending planning rules to make it easier for businesses to put advertising material up beside local roads. The issue came to prominence last summer when the future of successful local business Widdrington Country Barn was threatened after the council ordered them to remove their roadside advertising. Coun. Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland Conservatives, said, “Since the outrageous situation facing Widdrington Country Barn, we have been encouraging the council to take a more business-friendly approach in its planning regulations. I am delighted that the council has now seen sense and will be changing the rules to make it easier for local businesses to advertise their goods and services.” David Bawn, Northumberland Conservatives spokesman for Morpeth North, said, “Residents of Morpeth and surrounding areas know and love the Country Barn. It is precisely the kind of local enterprise that the council should be doing all it can to support. I am delighted that other businesses will now not experience what the Country Barn has been through.” The new council proposals say there should be "the provision of maximum assistance in the preparation of an application for advertisement consent". The proposals also state that, should an unauthorised advertisement be placed on private land, "Where no harm is identified and there is no public interest to be served in the council taking action, no action will be taken."

Northumberland Conservatives threaten legal challenge to ambulance cuts

Northumberland Conservatives have threatened to call a judicial review in order to protect residents of Berwick from unwanted cuts to the ambulance service. The North East Ambulance Service is planning to withdraw one of the emergency ambulances covering the town. The Conservative opposition on Northumberland County Council has said that they will watch how the decision is made ‘like a hawk’. Tom Forrester is the Conservative Spokesman for Berwick North. Tom said, “Northumberland Conservatives are prepared to call a judicial review to ensure that rural residents are not ignored. In legal-speak, any ‘substantive variation’ to the ambulance service must be subject to a full and formal consultation process. Without this, there can be no legal grounds for withdrawing ambulances. The voices of local residents will leave no doubt as to the strength of local feeling. Local Conservatives would seek to mount a legal challenge to any decision that ignored overwhelming public opposition.” Coun. Peter Jackson is the Leader of Northumberland Conservatives. Coun. Jackson said, “Northumberland Conservatives oppose scaling back ambulance provision in rural Northumberland. We will not stand by and watch as Berwick becomes a more dangerous place to fall ill in. As the official opposition on the council we are watching how this decision is made like a hawk.”

Local campaigner highlights danger of unlimited home care charges

Spittal campaigner Karen Thorburn has raised concerns about controversial county council plans to introduce unlimited charges for people receiving care in their home. Currently, vulnerable elderly and disabled people pay no more than £120 to receive support in their home, but council bosses are planning to remove this cap in the budget for the coming financial year. Karen has previously been a co-founder of a Berwick self-help support scheme for parents with special needs and was formerly a governor at Grove Special School. Karen said, “I understand how vital it is that working families with vulnerable dependents are able to afford care in their home. Home care is a lifeline for people who must juggle paying the bills with providing care for elderly relatives or family members with special needs. I am deeply worried that removing the cap on charges for home care will leave many people unable to afford this vital help. The council has not done enough research to inform a decision on removing the cap. They cannot answer how many people who currently use home care will be unable to afford it after they introduce unlimited charges. The council claims that the current cap of £120 means that wealthy people are not paying market value. I am more worried about the people currently struggling who will be hit hardest by unlimited charges.”

Brian Hesler stands up for Rothbury

A former top Fire Officer is standing for council for Northumberland Conservatives at next year’s local elections. Brian Hesler served as Northumberland Chief Fire Officer and Director of Community Safety from 2004-2010, having started his career as a frontline firefighter in 1978. Brian is a governor at Harbottle First School, Chairman of the Rothbury Scout Group Executive and Secretary of the British Royal Legion. Brian lives in Rothbury with his wife and family. Brian said, “After a career in public service I want to continue working on behalf of my neighbours. My roles with the fire service and with local voluntary organisations have given me experience of working on behalf of residents of Rothbury and its surrounding villages and I know the area extremely well. Finalising the deal for the new Rothbury Fire Station is one of my proudest achievements. I hope to be given the chance to do much more for our area in years to come.” The commitment of the Conservatives to a dedicated Northumberland Fire Service is one reason why Brian is standing. Brian said, “Northumberland Conservatives are committed to maintaining a dedicated and independent fire service for Northumberland, which is one of the reasons I am standing as a Conservative. The Lib Dems have wasted time and money pursuing their failed plan for a merger with Cumbria, threatening the future of our service and causing uncertainty for the public and employees alike.”

Lib Dem broadband plan slammed as ‘commercially unattractive’

A report by officers at Northumberland County Council has labeled the authority’s plan for superfast broadband development ‘commercially unattractive’. The report is a serious blow to hopes for investment in the county’s superfast broadband infrastructure. Northumberland Conservatives have commented that the report should be a ‘wake-up call’ for a ‘complacent’ Lib Dem administration. Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland Conservatives, said, “This report is damning of the Lib Dem broadband strategy. The report says that the best we can hope for is a large network of small and commercially unattractive exchanges that will be exorbitantly expensive to upgrade. It should serve as a wake-up call for a complacent administration that has repeatedly failed to bid for funding made available by central government for broadband development. Incredibly, the only solution offered by this report is that the council should spend tax payer money educating local people about the benefits of broadband. Local people need investment in infrastructure, not more PR spin.” David Rixon is the Conservative spokesman for Longhoughton. David said, “High speed broadband is an essential tool for everyone, from job seekers to businesses looking to grow and children doing homework. It is not only deeply frustrating to have such low connection speeds in Northumberland, slow broadband is a major handicap for economic and social growth in our county. A Conservative-run council would make development for broadband infrastructure our top capital investment priority.”

Lib Dems threaten parking charge hike for Northumberland market towns

Lib Dem councillors are preparing to increase parking charges in Northumberland market towns, in order to fund short periods of free parking for visitors. On Monday, the Lib Dem Executive of Northumberland County Council will discuss plans for a permit which would establish two hour periods of free parking. However, the permit would be funded by general increases in parking charges. Northumberland Conservatives have criticised the plan as ‘giving money to residents with one hand and taking it back with the other’.Leader of Northumberland Conservatives, Coun. Peter Jackson, said, “The Lib Dem plan proves that they see car parking as a cash cow, but this is an unwarranted tax on county residents. The Lib Dems are promising to give money to residents with one hand, but to take it back with the other.The Lib Dems are failing to challenge the basic inequality whereby residents of North and West Northumberland pay to park, when parking is free in Blyth and Ashington. It cannot be right that residents of Berwick, Hexham, Alnwick and Morpeth, who already high parking charges, will be forced to pay even more. The latest Lib Dem plan will do little to support our market towns whilst reinforcing the current unfairness.”It is the established policy of Northumberland Conservatives to make parking free for residents of Northumberland. The Conservative plans have won the backing of Chambers of Commerce in Berwick, Alnwick, Morpeth and Hexham.

Iceland windfall could speed up glacial movement on high school

A court judgment in Iceland could mean a capital windfall for Northumberland County Council. Alnwick’s County Councillor, Gordon Castle, is making the case for any money returned to the council to be allocated to a rebuild of Duchess’ High School. Last week the Iceland Supreme Court ruled that deposits of UK local authorities in a collapsed Icelandic bank would be given priority status, meaning that authorities will have their reimbursements fast-tracked.

Local campaigner encourages people to have their say on home care

Local campaigner Anne-Marie Trevelyan is encouraging residents of North Northumberland to contribute their experience of receiving nursing care at home to an online survey. Northumberland LINk has teamed up with the Queens Nursing Institute to gather information on the experiences people have had of receiving nursing care at home.

Call made for Leader’s resignation after Lib Dems ban discussion of email scandal

The Chairman of Northumberland County Council has banned councillors from discussing an email in which the Council Leader says he will block a rebuild of the Duchess’ High School unless a Lib Dem parking policy is passed. The Lib Dem Chairman is now accused by opposition councillors of using his position to shield the Lib Dem Leader, Jeff Reid, from embarrassment. Leader of Northumberland Conservatives, Coun. Peter Jackson, attempted to propose a motion of censure against the Council Leader at a meeting discussing the parking strategy. The Chairman, after checking with the council solicitor, used a point of procedure to prevent the motion being proposed or debated.