Councillors urged to stand down from trust

A PONTELAND resident has called on the two town councillors involved in the establishment of a Community Trust for the area to resign their positions on the new body.

After talks took place between members of community groups, including Ponteland Lions Club and Ponteland Rotary Club, and the Ponteland Business Network to form an organisation that can use significant funds to deliver economic, social and environmental improvement projects, it was registered with Companies House on November 27.

The two councillors who signed up to represent the authority, Mayor Peter Cowey and Robin Ramsay, did so without discussing the matter with fellow members and they apologised for taking that course of action at a meeting in December.

During public question time at a recent full council meeting, Alan Varley said: “At a previous meeting, it was revealed that councillors Cowey and Ramsay had ‘drifted’ onto the committee of Ponteland Community Trust and had assumed positions on that entity as Ponteland Town Council representatives.

“It was further revealed that this undemocratic self-election had been effected without any reference to Ponteland Town Council.

“Have either or both of these councillors yet resigned these appointments and, if not, when do they intend to do so, thus allowing the two spaces reserved for Ponteland Town Council representatives to be filled in a democratic manner?”

In response, Coun Cowey said that discussions about the best way forward in relation to the Community Trust would take place in closed session later in the meeting.

These bodies can draw upon funding that is not available to the town council and other organisations, including national and EU grants.

As well as economic, social and environmental initiatives, they 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.

One of Mr Varley’s other questions was as follows: “At another meeting of the council, an offer was made by a councillor to try to obtain the services of persons serving community service orders to assist with work being undertaken by volunteers on the old railway line through Darras Hall.

“The offer was declined with a dismissive wave of the hand by Coun Ramsay, whom I presume was acting as unelected chair of the Footpaths Working Group. I ask the councillor to explain why the offer was turned down.”

Coun Cowey said: “If it appeared that the suggestion was dismissed, it was probably due to the fact that the council had used the service previously with little success.

“In fact, a meeting has recently been held with the probation service with a view to trying out the service again.”

Mr Varley also re-submitted a question he had asked previously where he called upon each councillor to set out their views about Northumberland County Council’s housing proposals in its core strategy.

It is looking to build 850 new homes in Ponteland over the next 20 years and some of the area’s green belt would be deleted to provide new estates and buildings for employment use.

Coun Cowey said that Mr Varley had been sent a copy of the town council’s response, which was agreed unanimously, and he would be welcome to write to or email each councillor directly.

The town council said in its reply that only small scale development is appropriate for Ponteland, priority should be given to building on previously developed land and there is no need to utilise green belt land.