Political showdown fizzles out behind closed doors

Coun Grant Davey
Coun Grant Davey

A Labour Party plan to force the reinstatement of its Core Strategy at a meeting of Northumberland’s full council this week was dramatically halted after legal advice.

Labour Group leader Grant Davey had tabled a motion calling for the council to drop the Conservative’s proposed new Core Strategy in favour of the Labour one which was withdrawn after the Conservatives took control of the council last year.

Calling for the previous plan to be reinstated ‘as soon as practicable’, Coun Davey explained in a motion to be put before the council: “The reason for reinstatement being key advice and information was withheld in making the previous decision relating to the implications of withdrawal, costs and timescale.

“Members were misled in terms of the timeframe for the preparation of a replacement plan with the leader referring to a few months, rather than the true timescale of many times that.

“The associated costs are also significant with the costs to date of removal being quoted over £1million.”

Coun Davey’s motion also suggested that the Conservatives’ new plan was not aligned with either the North East Local Enterprise Partnership or the North of Tyne Devolution Plan in terms of growth targets.

He raised the point that the Secretary of State’s department was watching developments in Northumberland.

And he concluded by saying that the previous Core Strategy would be much more in line with many Neighbourhood Plans than its Conservative replacement.”

The stage looked set for white-hot debate in a council chamber sweltering in heatwave weather because of a failure of the air conditioning system to operate.

But instead, as the motion came up, the business chairman of the council, Coun Ronald Dodd, halted proceedings and asked for the room to be cleared of Press and public so that legal points could be taken.

And when the chamber was re-opened to the public half-an-hour later it was announced the motion had been withdrawn and the meeting concluded.

It was unclear exactly what had gone on behind closed doors but after legal advice was taken, Coun Davey decided to withdraw the motion.

It is believed Labour will now look to bring a similar, if not the same motion, to a future meeting.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We can confirm the motion by Coun Davey to reinstate the previous draft Core Strategy was withdrawn.”

Graeme Anderson, Local Democracy Reporting Service