Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

New Dawn?

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

New Dawn?

Article excerpt

Byline: By Peter Taylor

Councils face upheaval as voters decide

A debate about the future of local government has been sparked by the launch of Northumberland County Council's plan for a single unitary authority. But what does it all mean for the ordinary householder in Northumberland?

Parish Councillor George Smailes, chairman of Hauxley Parish Council, Morpeth, has served his local community for nearly 20 years and thinks reorganisation could mean better frontline services for residents.

He thinks one unitary authority would be able to achieve savings because less staff and less councillors would be needed.

He said: "I think this is what it will all be about. I feel if one council can put more money into services the services will get better.

"I think having 67 councillors for one unitary authority would be better than having 30 for Alnwick and all the other councillors you would need for two unitary authorities.

"A lot of people around here feel they pay council tax and all they get is their bin emptied. There are obvious improvements which could be made because they are cutting back on libraries and old people's homes and the roads are really poor around here, compared with how they are in Scotland.

"The A1 is a disgrace. It should be a dual carriageway all the way through from Morpeth to Edinburgh but they have put off doing anything."

But Felton parish councillor Sylvia Harrison, also secretary of the North Northumberland Village Halls Consortium, feels strongly that the district councils plan is right, as she thinks it would give a stronger voice to rural communities.

"We need more money to spend on roads, rural transport, post offices and other facilities like village halls.

"The county council we have now is no good for the rural areas. We want the people we elect to represent us. I feel very strongly that we need our own voice and we need more money.

"Most rural areas keep their end up by volunteers working very hard while all the money is passed on to the conurbations.

"There is no possibility of us being served by a huge unitary authority. …

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