A NORTH council leader who sparked an outrage by labelling his home town a “dump” has the backing of colleagues on the authority, one claimed last night.
Jeff Reid, leader of Northumberland County Council, caused anger in Blyth by telling a meeting he travels to Cramlington to shop as his town is a “dump.”
He faced calls to apologise to the people of Blyth and to consider whether he can continue to represent them. Coun Reid admitted his words had been a “mistake”.
Political opponents yesterday called on the Liberal Democrat councillor’s colleagues on the authority to state whether they “follow his line and support his views or they should disassociate themselves from him.”
In response, a fellow Lib Dem on the council has claimed his leader has his party’s backing.
Coun Ian Tompkins, member for Wensleydale and a town councillor, last night said: “Of course we are supporting him.
“In general what Jeff does and what he gets on and does is fine by me.
“He has apologised as I understand it, many times, many politicians make mistakes, it happens everywhere.”
Coun Tompkins, a former chairman of the county council, however, distanced himself from his leader’s comments.
“Blyth has got considerable problems, but it is not a dump, no.
“It is good place to live as I have shown here for living here over 40 years.”
He hit out at Coun Reid’s rivals for seeking to exploit his leader’s comments ahead of authority elections in May.
“The Labour Party, because the elections are coming up, are bound to make something of it, it does not mean to say they are going to win, they are just making a hoo-ha.”
Labour leader on the council Grant Davey, a fellow Blyth member, had earlier said: “Jeff Reid the Liberal Democrat leader has not shown any respect for the people of Blyth. We demand to know what his colleagues think on this subject and will be pressing them to come clean and voice their true opinions, they must now make the easy choice, support a man who has let down his constituents or reject him and show the people of Blyth that they’re not all like he is.”
Coun Reid, who represents Blyth’s Plessey ward, made the comments at a meeting of Hexham Business Forum.
He said: “I live in Blyth and Blyth is a dump so I usually get in the car and go to Cramlington to shop.”
He was accused of giving a snub to residents and traders by Labour’s Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell, Coun Davey and Peter Dodds, director at Woodcocks curtain shop in the town which has now closed.
Coun Reid said he had been trying to explain to the meeting the difficulties facing Blyth and admitted his choice of words had been “wrong.”
He insisted: “I love the place.”
He has apologised, many times, many politicians make mistakes, it happens everywhere