Advertising hoardings, many of which feature the council leader, are the latest battleground between Labour and the Tories in Northumberland.
The county’s Conservative opposition has highlighted the ‘astonishing’ cost of hoardings that are being used to advertise the council’s developments in market towns – most of them include pictures of Coun Grant Davey.
The Labour administration has hit back, saying the Tories are misleading the public and pointing out that the bulk of the cost is the hoardings which form the boundaries of construction sites, not the adverts.
The political storm has blown up on the back of a freedom of information request by local Conservative campaigner Jack Gebhard, which revealed that the total cost of the hoardings is £52,395.
He said: “I was quite shocked to see the extent of the spending on these advertisements.
“The county council is always complaining about a lack of funds. Here is a perfect example of how much money they still waste, as £52,000 could have been put towards saving our local Morpeth library or helping to pay for more teachers instead of being spent on posters of Grant Davey, the world’s most unlikely pin-up.”
Conservative group leader, Coun Peter Jackson, added: “Instead of wasting public money on clearly political advertising, this council could be doing so much more to support essential local services.”
A Labour group spokesman responded: “As a director of the development company Arch, Coun Jackson should know that it has an obligation to comply with health and safety legislation by clearly marking out the boundaries of its construction sites, which these hoardings help to achieve.
“Not only do the signs help safeguard the public during work to massively improve Northumberland’s market towns, at the same time, they also assist in meeting the target the council was set of improving its communication with the public – set by an independent review panel headed by an influential Tory peer in 2013.
“What is more public than a notice on an existing hoarding, especially when it comes at ZERO cost to Northumberland County Council – the additional branding was paid for by the sub-contractor as per common practice.”
At the meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning committee that was held a week last Tuesday, members voted by five to two, with one abstention, to approve one of the signs featuring Coun Davey at the former Morpeth Fire Station site.