Figures could be ‘misleading’ for County Hall move

Figures supporting a County Hall move from Morpeth to Ashington have come under fire.

An Economic Impact Assessment by consultants ERS states that the relocation would provide more than £100million in benefits to the two towns from construction jobs for the new headquarters and house building on the existing site.

But Morpeth resident David Holden, an international business analyst, says the report is misleading as the benefits would be delivered wherever a new council base is built.

He said: “It is extremely important to note that the economic benefit generated by the construction projects will benefit the North East, or at best Northumberland, not solely Ashington and not solely Morpeth.

“The ERS report makes it clear that the economic benefit of the construction cost of around £19million will be around £54million, of which 88 to 95 per cent will stay within the regional economy of the North East.

“In summary ERS attributes the maximum benefit of £51million to Northumberland, presumably assuming no leakage to Newcastle or Gateshead. It then misleadingly attributes the £51million benefit to Ashington, rather than to the wider region.

“It is totally clear that the economic gain arising from the construction of the new HQ facility will benefit the whole of the county, not just the town where it is located.”

Mr Holden said the same error was made in stating a £52million benefit to Morpeth from house building, that there was a miscalculation in the number of houses, and that plans for 1,500 houses to be built in Morpeth by 2031 would be fulfilled anyway, without the County Hall site.