Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Passing Buck' Claim on Councils Reform; County Submits Both Options on Unitary Question to Government

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Passing Buck' Claim on Councils Reform; County Submits Both Options on Unitary Question to Government

Article excerpt

Byline: By Dave Black

LABOUR leaders of Northumberland County Council were last night accused of "passing the buck" after averting a potential defeat in a key vote on the controversial issue of local government reform.

Opposition councillors attacked them for cobbling together a last-minute compromise deal in order to head off a possible rebellion by their own members over backing for a single "super council" to run the county.

An extraordinary meeting of the county council agreed to submit two rival bids to the Government - one for a single unitary council and the other for two unitaries along urban and rural lines as recommended by the six district councils.

It means the county council is not expressing a preference for either option - a move seen by opposition councillors as a major climbdown from the Labour leadership's original recommendation to call for a single unitary.

An 11th-hour amendment tabled by council leader Bill Brooks called for both options to be submitted for Government scrutiny, with ministers asked to decide which one they feel is best for the future of Northumberland.

The compromise was aimed at winning the support of a number of Labour county councillors who are known to be supporters of two new unitary councils, one for Blyth Valley and Wansbeck and the other for the four rural districts.

The Journal revealed last week how Labour councillors were threatened with suspension from the ruling group if they failed to support the leadership's call for a single unitary.

Last night opposition councillors condemned the compromise move as "a sop to a damaged administration" and claimed it smacked of desperation.

The Labour leadership's original recommendation to yesterday's meeting was for the county council to "endorse the case for a single unitary council". …

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