Saturday, 15 December 2012

They say a week is a long time in politics – it clearly is for Councillor Hunter given her ‘forgetfulness’

BERWICK CAR PARKING LATEST
‘The Liberal Democrats can’t have it all ways on free parking’ –Grant Davey
In the latest ‘twist’ on Berwick car parking charges and their temporary ‘lifting’ for 7 days, Liberal Democrat Councillor Isabel Hunter seems to have got herself in a terrible twist.
First, her colleague and the newly christened ‘Cabinet Member for Car Parking, Morality and Responsibility, Councillor Andrew Tebbutt ( Sat 8 Dec) said the Tory motion which was supported by Labour to introduce ‘free car parking for Christmas’ was ‘immoral and irresponsible’. Leaving aside the view on the fairness’ of the current Liberal policy to charge the likes of Berwick, Hexham, Alnwick and Morpeth and not charge other areas, it seems levying a massive amount on the charged areas (between £1.95m and £5m depending on Councillor Tebbutt’s ‘figures’ for that day) is okay.
Secondly, only 48hrs later, Councillor Hunter was out welcoming ‘the relaxation of charges’ contradicting Councillor Tebbutt and official Lib Dem policy (if there is one).
Thirdly, she is now saying she doesn’t welcome the charges because she wasn’t at the meeting of the council where the motion was debated? She says ‘so Coun Davey’s claim that I back this so-called ‘free car parking plan’ is totally inaccurate’. She seems to have forgotten her position, in print, of only 72hrs ago.
The Berwick Advertiser said ‘Coun Hunter, member for Berwick West with Ord, welcomed the reduction in Berwick’s parking charges to put them in line with other market towns, as well as the removal of Sunday charges’.
So does she or doesn’t she back our ‘fair’s – fair’ campaign or does she think that it’s fair to ‘tax’ local businesses and residents with a car parking policy which says it’s okay for some parts of Northumberland to pay ‘ a tax on parking’ and others to get away with paying nothing’?
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘Clearly, the Liberals are split on car parking charges and Councillor Hunter’s position is unsustainable. She either welcomes free car parking or she doesn’t, she either agrees that this measure will help the local economy or she doesn’t and she either backs her Liberal colleague’s policy on car parking or she doesn’t? She can’t have it all ways. She needs to be honest with her residents and stop the ‘flip flop’.
Labour’s policy is crystal clear – we don’t think the Tory motion went far enough but it’s a start – we are committed to working with town and parish council’s to decide if their communities will benefit from free parking as part of a wider traffic management plan. Councillor Tebbutt, the man in charge of this policy has decided that the commitment is ‘immoral’. We disagree and a policy which ‘taxes’ some areas while not others is unfair. It’s time for the Liberal Democrats to come clean about their ‘stealth tax’ on Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Alnwick and it’s time for Councillor Hunter to level with the people and businesses of Berwick and tell them exactly why they should pay a ‘tax’ and others shouldn’t?
They say a week is a long time in politics – it clearly is for Councillor Hunter given her ‘forgetfulness’. 


Published on Monday 10 December 2012 Berwick Press “It’s encouraging that despite the savings the council needs to make, it has found a way to scrap Sunday parking charges in Berwick. This move will encourage more people to come into the town on Sundays to eat, shop and socialise and will be a real boost to the town’s traders. A statement carried by the Berwick Advertiser made by Coun Isabel Hunter

 Berwick Advertiser
Published on Friday 14 December 2012 14:00

LABOUR politicians have called on Berwick Lib Dem Isabel Hunter to back their campaign to end ‘the unfair lottery of car parking charges’.

The call comes after Coun Hunter, member for Berwick West with Ord, welcomed the reduction in Berwick’s parking charges to put them in line with other market towns, as well as the removal of Sunday charges.
Labour leader Coun Grant Davey issued a statement claiming that Coun Hunter defied her Lib Dem colleagues to come out in favour of a parking charges amnesty the week before Christmas.
Coun Davey said: “We’re now seeing the true face of Northumberland’s Liberal Democrats. In one breath, they label free car parking ‘immoral and irresponsible’ and in the next breath, they back the plan ‘as good for local businesses’.
“The truth is the Liberal Democrat car parking policy which rakes in nearly £2m from some areas of Northumberland is unfair and it’s time for them to cut their losses and admit they are wrong.
“Our policy is crystal clear – we’ll introduce free car parking, in a planned manner, working with towns and parishes because we think they are best placed to judge whether free car parking will benefit an area not politicians in County Hall.”
Labour has now launched a ‘fair’s fair’ campaign to highlight inequality and unfairness in car parking charges.
Coun Davey said: “We think this is a simple matter of fairness and it’s not political. Towns like Morpeth, Berwick and Hexham shouldn’t be hit with, what amounts to, a stealth tax on motorists. At a time when businesses and customers are facing an unprecedented squeeze, we think the council should play fair with the whole county.”
However, Coun Hunter has dismissed Labour claims that she defied her party to back a decision which introduced free car parking in Berwick the week before Christmas as ‘totally inaccurate’.
She said: “I was not at the last meeting of Northumberland County Council and therefore didn’t take part in the vote on Conservative leader Peter Jackson’s cobbled together motion, so Coun Davey’s claim that I back this so-called ‘free car parking plan’ is totally inaccurate.
“The Liberal Democrats running Northumberland have always been clear that charges exist for traffic management purposes and, as there is less traffic to manage on Sundays, it is possible to remove charges without causing the utter chaos that the Tory/Labour week of ‘free’ parking will cause.
“The council has been given very little time to try and implement it by the other two parties.”




Thursday, 13 December 2012

FREE parking will be offered in Morpeth in the run-up to Christmas – and fresh moves are afoot to make it a permanent arrangement

Morpeth Hearld

Free parking but ‘now not just for Christmas’

Published on Thursday 13 December 2012 10:50

FREE parking will be offered in Morpeth in the run-up to Christmas – and fresh moves are afoot to make it a permanent arrangement.

In a dramatic debate at County Hall last week, Northumberland County Council members voted 23-22 to waive parking charges in the week before Christmas to give a boost to market town traders. The Conservative motion was backed by the Labour group and will see free parking offered in Morpeth from next Tuesday to Christmas Eve.
Now Labour councillors are following up the victory with a new campaign and petition calling for parking charges to be scrapped permanently, unless town and parish councils specifically request them for their areas.
Group Leader Grant Davey said: “We think this is a simple matter of fairness and it’s not political.
“Towns like Morpeth, Berwick and Hexham shouldn’t be hit with what amounts to a stealth tax on motorists and soaked up by the county council to the tune of nearly £2million.
“At a time when businesses and customers are facing an unprecedented squeeze, we think the council should play fair with the whole county.
“We hope that residents and businesses will get behind our ‘fair’s fair’ campaign, which sends a message to the Liberal Democrats, particularly the three councillors in Morpeth, that the town deserves a helping hand in tough times, not a kick in the teeth.”
The group says the council has raked in more than £1.95million in fees and charges from car parks in the north and west towns, including Morpeth, while offering free parking in the south-east areas.
But Coun Davey said members are concerned that charges will be introduced to the likes of Blyth, Ashington and Cramlington in the Lib Dems’ budget proposals.
County Executive Member for Corporate Resources and Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt said there are no plans to introduce parking charges to south-east Northumberland. And he said the free countywide parking proposal would cost the authority up to £5million.
“Clearly there is an election coming up so I’m not surprised by this campaign,” he said.
“The Labour group has always put forward budget proposals that I don’t think are achievable. My constant position ever since the first proposal for free parking across Northumberland was put forward is that I think they will find that with the pressure on local government finance they will have to make some very hard decisions in relation to other services if they persist with this. I think they will find that those cuts are unacceptable.
“The Liberal Democrat position is that car-parking charges are primarily about traffic congestion, they are not about income raising, but the service has to be funded. If we had free parking we would need more staff because the pressure on congestion will be greater. I suspect that we may be talking about finding £3.5million, but it could be as much as £5million.
“This proposal goes against the trend in the rest of the country where they are increasing charges in car parks because they know that is the only way they can fund good car parks.”
Coun Tebbutt added: “We are not putting charges into south-east Northumberland, that is a load of rubbish. The Labour group does not know what our budget proposals are, but we are certainly not proposing car-parking charges in south-east Northumberland because it is not viable to do so.
“The economies of Blyth and Ashington are the worst of all the key settlements in Northumberland. I would be delighted to see them creating sufficient traffic congestion that charges could be justified, but I don’t think we will see it in the current climate.”
The county’s Conservatives have already proposed free parking for all of Northumberland’s residents.
The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has welcomed the latest campaign for permanent free parking.
Chairman John Beynon said: “It is good news. I think everybody apart from the Liberal Democrats seems to recognise that parking charges do affect trade in the towns and it is unfair on the towns that do have car parking charges, such as Morpeth.
“The Liberal Democrats keep saying it doesn’t affect businesses. I don’t know how they know that because they don’t ask the traders.
“We are a non-political organisation, but we are supporting the Conservatives on their initiatives with car parking and the traffic lights, and any other political group that comes along with a proposal for free car parking we would support.”
Mr Beynon also spoke of his delight that parking charges will be dropped for the week before Christmas, especially as the chamber has been given assurances that time limits and other restrictions will still be enforced.
“It was a surprise to get this because we have never been given free parking for Christmas before, but anything that can help the traders is great,” he said. “We have written to the Parking Manager Lynne Ryan to say we hope that policing of parking will still be going on in the car parks to make sure that time limits are applied. We have been told that parking will be free, but the time limits will still apply. Our worry was that parking officers would be pulled out of the towns, but we have been assured they won’t be.
“I know the Lib Dems say this will cause chaos, but they can hardly say that when we have the Telford Bridge traffic lights causing as much chaos every day. It will be the lights rather than the car parks that cause chaos.”
The free Christmas parking offer was proposed by the Conservatives at a meeting of the council last Wednesday.
Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson said: “One week of free parking ahead of Christmas will be a welcome festive boost for residents and businesses in Morpeth.
“In a world of internet shopping and free parking at out-of-town shopping centres, it is out of touch to expect people to pay for the privilege of parking to shop in our towns.
“Our proposal for free parking at Christmas has been warmly received by local traders, many of whom are now planning special promotions in order to make the most of the extra trade they expect free parking will attract.
“It is hard to understand how the Lib Dems could be so ungenerous as to oppose this and so arrogant as to tell our traders and residents that they are wrong to want free parking. We have got free parking for one week in the year, now we need free parking for residents all year round.”
The council’s Liberal Democrats have hit out at the Labour group for supporting the initiative after Coun Davey previously said it was ill-judged, too late and not thought out.
Coun Tebbutt said: “I am very disappointed with the attitude Labour has shown. They had initially planned to vote against this motion for sound reasons, but have completely contradicted themselves and decided to back the Conservatives’ ridiculous plan because it is more politically expedient.
“Now that the council has passed this policy we will have to find £40,000 from somewhere within our budget to fund it. I’d be interested to know what Labour and the Conservatives would like to cut to pay for this.”
A spokesman for the Labour group said: “Labour put forward a fully-costed motion seeking to introduce free parking last year and it was defeated. The Conservative motion introducing one week’s free parking didn’t go far enough, but we felt it was a start.”

Labour’s policy on car parking is based on a motion to Full Council last year. It wasn’t supported by the Conservative or Liberal groups.The Labour party in Northumberland wants to introduce free parking in partnership with town and parish council’s and as part of an overall ‘traffic management plan’.

Press Release
Labour launches free parking campaign for Morpeth
‘Fair’s Fair’ campaign targets Liberal Democrat ‘stealth tax’ on motorists
Labour has launched a campaign to highlight inequality and unfairness in car parking charges in Morpeth as pressure grows on the council’s ruling Liberal Democrat group to lift their so-called ‘tax on motorists’.
At a meeting of full council last week, Labour backed a Conservative motion which lifted car parking charges in Morpeth, Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham for one week from 18-24 Dec. The motion was described as ‘irresponsible and immoral’ by leading Liberal Democrat and Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt after Labour decided to back the Conservative motion even though it felt ‘it didn’t go far enough’.
The meeting was also told that the council ‘raked in’ over £1.95m in fees and charges from some towns in Northumberland while offering free car parking in other areas. Sources have indicated that Liberal Democrat leader Jeff Reid and his Cabinet are considering whether to scrap free parking in the South East area as part of their budget proposals.  
Labour is hoping that their campaign which will include a petition will attract widespread support and have highlighted that their proposals would mean town and parish councils would be able to decide if free parking was appropriate for their area.
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘We think this is a simple matter of fairness and it’s not political. Towns like Morpeth, Berwick and Hexham shouldn’t be hit with, what amounts to, a ‘stealth tax on motorists’ and ‘soaked’ by the county council to the tune of nearly £2m. At a time when businesses and customers are facing an unprecedented squeeze, we think the council should play fair with the whole county. At the same time, we’re dismayed to hear the Liberals may be considering introducing parking charges in areas in the South East. We hope that residents and businesses will get behind our ‘fair’s- fair’ campaign which sends a message to the Liberal Democrats, particularly the Three councillors in Morpeth, that the town deserves a helping hand in tough times not a kick in the teeth’.
Labour MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery said
‘It’s vital that the county council helps businesses and residents in tough economic times and that’s why it’s right that the Labour party draws attention to a measure that is clearly unfair. I would urge the council to take this matter seriously and do the right thing for Morpeth’.

End
Notes for the Editor
·         Labour’s policy on car parking is based on a motion to Full Council last year. It wasn’t supported by the Conservative or Liberal groups.
·         The Labour party in Northumberland wants to introduce free parking in partnership with town and parish council’s and as part of an overall ‘traffic management plan’.    

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Liberal councillor backs free car parking plan

Press Release
Labour slam ‘Liberal double standards’
Liberal councillor backs free car parking plan
Labour has today called for Liberal councillor Isabel Hunter of Berwick with Ord ward to back their campaign to end ‘the unfair lottery of car parking charges which penalise Berwick and Hexham’.
The call comes as Councillor Hunter defied her party and backed a decision which introduced free car parking in Berwick for a week from 18 Dec to 24 Dec. The Liberal Democrat cabinet member for resources, Andrew Tebbutt had branded the motion put forward by the Tories and backed by Labour as ‘irresponsible and immoral’ but it seems that view is not shared by members of his own party.
Now Labour are stepping up the pressure on Liberal councillors who represent wards which still have car parking charges after it emerged that the council was ‘raking in’ £1.95m in fees and charges alone.

Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘We’re now seeing the true face of Northumberland’s Liberal Democrats. In one breath, they label free car parking ‘immoral and irresponsible’ and in the next breath, they back the plan ‘as good for local businesses’. The truth is the Liberal Democrat car parking policy which rakes in nearly £2m from some areas of Northumberland is unfair and it’s time for them to cut their losses and admit they are wrong. Our policy is crystal clear – we’ll introduce free car parking, in a planned manner, working with towns and parishes because we think they are best placed to judge whether free car parking will benefit an area not politicians in County Hall’.
 Berwick Coun Isobel Hunter Lib Dem supports free Parking in Northumberland
Published on Monday 10 December 2012 14:18 Berwick Press
FREE Sunday parking will come into force in Berwick and other parts of the borough from December 16.
The news comes a month after the planned change was first confirmed by Northumberland County Council, along with reductions in the charges levied on other days in Berwick’s car parks to put them in line with other market towns across the county.
Coun Isabel Hunter, Lib Dem member for Berwick West with Ord, said: “It’s encouraging that despite the savings the council needs to make, it has found a way to scrap Sunday parking charges in Berwick. This move will encourage more people to come into the town on Sundays to eat, shop and socialise and will be a real boost to the town’s traders.
“I am pleased that this is going to be implemented so soon, meaning there will be plenty time for people to get their Christmas shopping done on Sundays. Taken together with the huge cut being made to charges on other days, this is very good news for visitors to Berwick.”
A report to the county council’s executive last month stated that the move “would further reinforce the council’s commitment to supporting local businesses”.

Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.

Press Release
Labour slams Liberals over ‘car parking stealth tax’
Labour calls on council to think again on free car parking
Labour councillors on Northumberland County Council have urged the Liberal controlled council to ‘think again’ on car parking charges as figures show the council has ‘raised’ £1.95m in fees and fines from towns like Hexham and Berwick.
Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.
Labour are now urging the Liberal administration ‘stop playing politics’ with car parking and equalise free parking across the whole county in line with free car parking enjoyed by the South East area of the county.
Labour says it is unfair and an ‘effective stealth tax’ for areas without free car parking and ‘the shoppers permit has been ineffective, costly and bureaucratic’.
Labour group leader said
‘The arguments put forward by Jeff Reid and his Liberal party show how reliant this administration has become on car parking fees and fines. By taking, £1.95m out of the local economy, they’ve effectively levied a ‘stealth tax on motorists’ which hits local economic activity. At a time when the council should be supporting local economies like Berwick and Hexham, it’s counting on money raised through fines and fees. This is a question of fairness and we’re urging the Liberals to adopt our original plan to let local towns and parishes decide whether free car parking is good for their communities. This shouldn’t be a decision for County Hall’.     

Monday, 10 December 2012

I was saddened when hearing that Northumberland Lib Dems wish to remove the costs of greenkeeping at Tynedale Golf Club from their forthcoming budget, placing another Leisure outlets future in jeopardy.

                   11 Craigmill Park,
10 December 2012                                       Blyth,
                                                                   Northumberland,
                                                                   NE24 5JL.
                                                                   01670 369725

Dear Sir,


I was saddened when hearing that Northumberland Lib Dems wish to remove the costs of greenkeeping at Tynedale Golf Club from their forthcoming budget, placing another Leisure outlets future in jeopardy.

The Liberal Democrats attack on Clean and Green services in Northumberland has been consistent in its application, their keep everything dirty and unkempt then maybe Parish Councils will take the strain, has been their regrettable policy from Day One, when the people of Northumberland gifted them with the chance to create something worthwhile, An all purpose UNITARY County Council.

Over the last four and a half years they and their Tory partners have kept an outdated management system in place in order to run a past its sell by date Executive and a Tory second administration through scrutiny. They have jointly attempted to destroy all of the good works undertaken by District Councils from 1974 to return Northumberland into a strategic authority that can plan but can’t deliver.

Northumberland Labour Group believe that Leisure outlets should be affordable and accessible to all whatever income bracket they fall into, yet here we have a Golf Club supported by a former District Council struggling to survive the ravages of the policy makers.

Keeping Northumberland’s population fit and healthy is also a responsibility of the County Council and here we have a leisure Service being cut to save on greenkeeping when we should be paying through public health to maintain facilities that will assist in keeping our population away from GP’s surgeries and hospitals.

Therefore Jeff Reid and Peter Jackson I challenge you both to speak Cross department and cross administrations to resolve this ridiculous debacle you’ve caused through your joint cheap jack thinking.


J Grant Davey

Leader, Northumberland Labour Group

Open Letter to News Post Leader

11 Craigmill Park,
10 December 2012                                       Blyth,
                                                                   Northumberland,
                                                                   NE24 5JL.
                                                                   01670 369725


Dear Sir,

In his Autumn statement George Osborne has announced another round of transport investment. None of it, as usual, is coming to Northumberland, although Northumberland residents might benefit from the generous gift of new roads around the Metro centre to the property companies who own the shopping centre that sucks the life out of the rest of the North east.

What’s clear though is that even if George Osborne knew where Northumberland is, or who Alan Beith, his LibDem comrade in arms is, Northumberland County Council has been so badly run that it had no shovel ready schemes to offer for funding.

As soon as George Osborne indicated that he might have money to spend the Tory party’s leader in waiting, Boris Johnson was ready with another scheme to lavish more money on London at the expense of the rest of us. Gateshead Council were ready with schemes to protect the shopping centre that will shore up their finances once business rates are retained locally. For Northumberland, facing a massive loss of grant once business rates are localised in order to subsidise the south east’s prosperity, had nothing to put on the table as a shovel ready scheme.

Five years ago all the major parties in Northumberland supported the re-opening of Belford station, a simple project given that trains already go there, and stop. It still isn’t ready. No progress has been made on the Ashington Blyth and Tyne line in the last five years. Nothing has been done about the traffic congestion on Cowpen Road in Blyth, Northumberland’s most congested road. The A1 is no nearer being dualled, and the proposed line of the improved A1 is being threatened by other developments.

The most significant projects carried out by Northumberland’s LibDems have been in their Morpeth heartlands, and the less said about the disaster that is Morpeth’s new traffic lights, the better. They’re a sideshow to the central problem; that this hand to mouth government, limping from missed target to missed target will increasingly be looking for shovel ready projects as it finds a few more millions down the back of the sofa. Under the LibDems Northumberland will never be ready.

J Grant Davey
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

A open letter from the Leader on the Free Parking issue

Dear Sir
I'm attaching a letter for your consideration sent on behalf of Grant Davey in his capacity as Leader of the Labour Group on Northumberland County Council. His address is County Hall, Morpeth.
It's partly in response to the comments made by Councillor Tebbutt on the issue of free carparking. I wonder if you were aware that Northumberland County Council is levying car parking charges totalling over £1.95m yearly on your town along with Hexham, Seahouses, Haltwhistle, Amble etc.
We'll be returning to this issue soon. 

Sir
I noted Councillor Andrew Tebbutt comments regarding the vote to provide 1 week free car parking to benefit Berwick and its economy were devoid of any fact.
Fact – the Labour party has consistently campaigned for free car parking across Northumberland because we don’t think it is fair that Councillor Tebbutt’s Liberal Council ‘soak’ the local economies outside of the South East in towns such as Berwick and Hexham to the tune of £1.95m per year.
Fact – His administration have stripped £2m from the environmental budget while pursuing vanity projects such as a £440,000 ‘state of the art’ fish pass at Hedgley. That shows the Liberals have their priorities wrong.
Fact – His administration has doubled the council debt while sacking over 2,500 workers so to take lectures on financial decision-making from the Liberals should come with a health warning.
The real fact is this Liberal administration has had four and half years to ‘show the county’ what it could do. Instead they’ve been the willing hand maidens of their Westminster masters and haven’t stood up for Northumberland.
That’s the real issue.

Cramlington is the forgotten town’

Press Release
Council under attack as councillor claims ‘Cramlington is the forgotten town’
‘Footbridge problem is a sign of the problem’ as Labour lead calls for replacement bus – Councillor Ian Ayres
A Labour councillor on Cramlington Town Council has accused the county council of ‘forgetting the Town’ after fears he raised over the lack of action over a dangerous footbridge link with the Town has been ‘kicked into the long grass’ by the county council’s Liberal administration.
The Beaconhill footbridge link with the town is vital for many elderly and vulnerable residents and it is now out of action for the foreseeable future and Councillor Ayres is pushing the authority to ‘come up with a plan such as a replacement bus service while urgent repairs are started and completed’.
Councillor Ayres said
‘I’m afraid that it seems the Liberal authority in Morpeth seems to have forgotten Cramlington. We’re losing bus services; we’ve got vital links between communities out of action and all the council can say is ‘they can’t do anything about the matters at this time’. It’s not good enough and residents are now isolated and local businesses are losing out on vital footfall. I’m urging the council to back my idea for a replacement bus service to help alleviate the pressure while the bridge is repaired.