Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lib Dem's Role in Revamp Sparks Row; Councillor's ' Closeness' Questioned

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lib Dem's Role in Revamp Sparks Row; Councillor's ' Closeness' Questioned

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil McKay

A ROW has erupted following the appointment of a senior North politician as a consultant to pounds 5m city centre revitalisation plans.

Durham's Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods last night questioned the "close relationship" between Newcastle Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Stone and the Lib Dem leadership of Durham City Council.

Mr Stone, 32, has been employed as a consultant by Durham City Vision to a scheme to give the city's Market Place a massive facelift.

Regeneration agency One North East is contributing pounds 4m to the pounds 5m project to improve the Market Place and surrounding alleyways and streets.

Dr Blackman-Woods said: "I am concerned about the neutrality of the Durham Vision consultation regarding changes to the Market Place after the revelation that a party colleague of the Durham Lib Dem city council leadership was chosen to head the consultation.

"A Lib Dem Newcastle City councillor, two-time parliamentary candidate and prospective parliamentary candidate for the next election has been appointed.

"I will be asking questions about the procurement process."

The MP added: "I have been pressing for this funding for some time while others have been working at a regional level, and that hard work could be put in jeopardy if this consultation is anything other than robustly independent."

A spokesman for Durham City Labour Party added: "It is right and proper for Labour to point out that this appointment raises some questions that need to be answered.

"What was the role of the Lib Dems in appointing a current and former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate to conduct an important consultation on the future of the Market Place in Durham City?"

But Mr Stone, who works for "a development consultancy declined to comment apart from pointing out that his appointment was approved by Labourcontrolled Durham County Council. …

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