Is Labour now passing the buck?

MOVES to introduce free parking across Northumberland could be put into motion next week.

But with plans to pass the decision on to town and parish councils, Morpeth traders fear the issue will be far from straightforward.

During election campaigning, the county’s Labour Group said it was in favour of free parking across the board to end the inequality where charges are levied in Morpeth, Alnwick, Berwick and Hexham, but not in south-east Northumberland.

However, the group said that it should not be a matter for Northumberland County Council to decide, but should be passed down to smaller authorities and local communities.

Now, after a deal appears to have been struck with the Independent group to take control of the county council, the Party is preparing to put its proposal into action.

And the plans could be announced as early as next week at the first meeting of the new council.

Labour Group Leader Grant Davey said: “We’ll come forward with our plan to encourage town councils to come up with a traffic management plan, which will open the door for free car parking in Northumberland’s towns where the public say they want it.”

However, the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade is anxious about the proposal as the Liberal Democrat-controlled Morpeth Town Council currently has a policy that parking charges should be in force.

The document says charges should be applied across Northumberland to ensure effective traffic management, minimise congestion and provide a reasonable return for the use of county assets.

Chairman of the chamber’s Car Parking Sub-Committee Charles Robinson said: “After the promises made by the Labour Party before the election, it will be a massive disappointment if it does not introduce free car parking across the county and anything less will be seen by voters as breaking a key election promise.

“Handing decision-making to the town council is not the same as introducing free parking.

It is particularly worrying for Morpeth because the Liberal Democrats have always been in favour of car parking charges in Morpeth — if not elsewhere — when they ran the county.

“The town council’s car parking strategy advocates that charging should be introduced across the whole county, which will simply not happen.

“We know this election has demonstrated that the people of Morpeth are fed up with one rule for one and another rule for another in terms of car parking charges and we would call on each individual councillor to speak up for the people of this town and press for free parking.”

Northumberland County Council will meet on Wednesday.