Criticism over ‘south east focus’ for key plan

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A leading opposition politician has slammed the county council’s new economic policy, describing it as ‘lacking substance’ and ‘ineffective’.

The Northumberland Economic Strategy was approved by the authority’s cabinet at a recent meeting.

But Conservative leader Peter Jackson has criticised the Labour administration, saying the strategy is ‘an attempted justification for pouring millions more of taxpayers’ money into the Labour heartlands of Blyth and Ashington, while just paying lip service to the real needs of the rest of the county’.

He added: “The county council should be looking to achieve prosperity across the whole county and not just in one small corner.

“There is little to encourage communities across the county such as Morpeth, Cramlington, Bedlington and Rothbury. These are all examples of communities which have particular needs and a right to equal treatment.

“Our county needs to build upon its successful tourism economy, which provides the basis for so many businesses and jobs.

“For too long the county council has been taking a back seat, rather than leading in this very important sector.

“There can be no doubt that Northumberland will not properly thrive until all parts can contribute equally.”

He also said that the local authority should be leading calls for a Rural Enterprise Zone as it would be a big boost to existing businesses and help to establish new rural enterprises.

A Labour group spokesman highlighted council funding for broadband in rural communities, the partial dualling of the A1 and plans to build thousands of affordable homes as examples of the administration team supporting all areas of the county.

He added: “We’re used to local Tories opposing everything put forward by this Labour administration, but we’d appreciate it if they opposed their own government’s savage cuts to Northumberland more instead of the deafening silence which emanates from Tory representatives in Northumberland.”

Meanwhile, the authority is carrying out headstone safety testing in its cemeteries over the coming months.

It forms part of a pre-planned five-year programme to test the safety and stability of all memorials within cemeteries and closed churchyards which are managed by the authority.

This type of testing is standard practice across the country and is required in all cemeteries to ensure public safety.

If any memorials are found to require attention, the memorial owner will be contacted and the cemeteries team will provide help to ensure any memorials of concern are made safe.

It is the responsibility of the grave owner to maintain the memorial in a safe condition, including any repairs that may arise over the years.

Any repairs will have to be carried out by an approved monumental mason.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services at the county council, said: “While we appreciate this is a sensitive issue, we have a duty of care to make sure our cemeteries are safe for visitors.

“The council is contacting families and deed holders to advise them the safety checks are taking place.”