Apology after trust decision

PONTELAND’S Mayor has apologised for deciding to be part of a new organisation before discussing the matter with fellow councillors.

Talks have been on-going between members of community groups in the area and the Ponteland Business Network to form a body that can use significant funds to deliver economic, social and environmental improvement projects. And on November 27, Ponteland Community Trust was registered with Companies House.

Seven of the 12 directors are in place, including representatives from Ponteland Lions Club, Ponteland Community Partnership and Ponteland Rotary Club, as well as the town council (Mayor Peter Cowey and Robin Ramsay).

But at a recent meeting, Coun Cowey said: “Everyone round the table was saying that it was a good idea, including Tony Kirsop (of the county council) who has expertise in this area, and I drifted into signing up.

“I apologise for making this decision. I should have discussed this with you at a full council meeting before agreeing to become a director.”

Earlier in the year, Coun Sue Johnson called for consultation to be carried out with the public to find out if residents want a community trust.

“I can’t believe that this is being presented to us as a fait accompli, it does not sit well with me,” she said.

“I’m flabbergasted that it has gone so far, as it has not been discussed at a council meeting since the summer.”

Coun Lesley Noble said there were positive aspects to the community trust but she also has concerns, such as the lack of female directors at the moment.

She added: “However, the main issue here is the lack of transparency. It isn’t something I would say lightly and I think it definitely applies in this case.”

Coun Ramsay also apologised for agreeing to become a director before discussing it at a council meeting.

Of the community trust model, he said: “This is a useful mechanism for the community to be able to draw upon funding that is not available to the town council and other organisations, including national and EU grants.

“There are trusts of this nature in other Northumberland towns, such as Morpeth and Hexham, that run some very successful projects.”

As well as economic, social and environmental initiatives, these bodies can manage community centres and recreation facilities and promote local heritage. They can also receive funds from new major housing developments.

Any profit made is re-invested in the community.