Business chiefs point the finger at councillors over confusion

MORPETH business leaders have accused councillors of causing confusion on parking issues over claims in a political newsletter.

The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade is furious about two articles in the area’s Liberal Democrat autumn newsletter, which refer to parking permits and charging.

The Focus newsletter states that the Morpeth shoppers’ permit, which allows free parking between 9am and 11am, and 3pm and 5pm daily, will be retained and rolled out across the county.

But in fact no decision has been made on the issue as a report and recommendations are still to be approved by Northumberland County Council.

Chamber Car Parking Sub-Committee Chairman Charles Robinson said: “If we go back to June they said they were going to scrap the shoppers’ permit, then in July they said they wanted more consultation, then at the end of July there was a recommendation to scrap it, then in August it was reprieved.

“It has been a roller-coaster of a ride for the shoppers’ permit in the hands of the Liberal Democrats.

“We now read in a political document that the shoppers’ permit is to be retained and that there will be an administration fee of £15.

“This leaflet has been delivered to every house in Morpeth so people will think it is great news, but we asked for some more detail, such as whether people can have one or two permits, or when they can apply, and we haven’t had a response.

“We don’t know whether we are going to be any closer to getting answers in the near future.”

However, the chamber’s main fury is directed towards a Focus newsletter item listing what Morpeth Town Council has achieved for residents, which states: “Took a strong position on traffic management and parking, achieving a fair and equitable parking strategy for the county, which includes retention of the shoppers’ permit.”

Mr Robinson said: “Members are very unhappy about that statement.

“The town council has argued for the retention of the shoppers’ permit in Morpeth, but to make a statement that it has achieved a fair and equitable parking strategy for the county seems highly questionable when people in Berwick are still paying £1.10 an hour for parking and those in South East Northumberland are paying absolutely nothing.

“Chamber members think that is grossly misleading.”

The chamber has written to Morpeth Town Council about its concerns and councillors say the complaint will be discussed at a meeting on Wednesday, January 25.

Town and county councillor Andrew Tebbutt, who has not been involved in parking discussions at the town council, admitted the item on the shoppers’ permit was premature.

“We were pre-empting the decision,” he said.

“It is the Liberal Democrats who run the county’s Administration so we assume the Executive will support the recommendation, but it was premature and we must apologise for that. It should have said the permit was recommended for approval, but those words were missed out.

“The few people who have contacted me about it, I have put right.”