Parking fees illustrate county split

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CAR parking is a classic example of how the ruling Liberal Democrats have divided Northumberland, according to Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson.

Charges in rural areas when drivers in the urban south east park free are a tax on market towns, he told the budget meeting at County Hall last Wednesday.

The ruling administration argued that it inherited the situation from the abolished district councils.

Coun Jackson, of Belsay, a former leader of Castle Morpeth Borough Council, also condemned the controversial installation of traffic lights at Morpeth’s Telford Bridge as a decision taken behind closed doors.

Hundreds of local people had made their views known at two meetings, signed a petition and held a protest march, but the administration had said only a small minority was complaining. In a survey, 96 per cent of respondents wanted the traffic lights removed.

Coun Jackson said a Conservative county-wide survey indicated voters’ number one issue was roads. He said investment was needed to counter years of neglect and so it was the wrong time to cut the roads budget and workforce.

But council Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt announced an extra £6million for roads in response to public concern.

Coun Jackson said the authority’s debt had doubled under the Liberal Democrats. He said the council had wasted money on fat-cat consultants, missed targets for affordable housing, become increasingly centralised and its empty buildings were costing £13million.

He added that if it had acted sooner to secure superfast broadband, the council could have had at least £20million in Government aid instead of £7million.

However, Council Leader Jeff Reid responded: “Rubbish, Peter.”