Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

MP on High Horse over Pounds 80,000 Show; Event Branded a Weekend for the Toffs

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

MP on High Horse over Pounds 80,000 Show; Event Branded a Weekend for the Toffs

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

AROW has blown up after a council used money intended to help jobs blackspots to fund a horse show.

Blyth Valley Labour MP Ronnie Campbell branded the summer event 'a weekend out for toffs'.

He strongly criticised Northumberland County Council - which is in the midst of making budget cuts totalling pounds 40m over two years - for earmarking pounds 80,000 to stage the high-profile equestrian event.

The unitary council - which is under-fire for closing old people's day centres, putting up charges and cutting hundreds of jobs to balance the books - hopes to attract some of the UK's leading riders to the prestigious equestrian competition in July. It has allocated pounds 80,000 to plan and organise the horse trials event, comprising dressage and show jumping elements, to be held at Burgham near Felton.

Regeneration bosses say they hope to attract up to 5,000 visitors to the event and have seen it included on the British Show Jumping calendar of major events.

Mr Campbell's anger at the spending has been heightened by the fact that the money is coming from the Government's Working Neighbourhoods Fund (WNF), which was set up to tackle unemployment and low levels of skills and enterprise in the most disadvantaged parts of the country.

News of the equestrian event comes as the Liberal Democrat-led council is proposing to put council tax bills up by 2.8% in April, axe hundreds more council posts and cut spending on services for the elderly by pounds 5.8m as part of ongoing budget reductions and savings. Mr Campbell said: "We are facing one of the most serious situations for years and we have the Lib Dems spending valuable resources on a weekend show jumping event. I know there are many horse lovers, and that it is important to help rural communities, but what will this actually do? "It is a weekend out for toffs and the people of Blyth Valley and Wansbeck are going to see money which could support their voluntary groups, like the resource centre and disabled forum in Blyth, going to making sure the rich and the so-called elite of the county have a good weekend out. …

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