Northumberland County Council Leader, Cllr Peter Jackson, reflects on the first year of Northumberland Conservatives being in charge at County Hall:
‘A year ago Northumberland Conservatives took on the leadership of County Hall.
‘This was an historic election victory for the Conservatives – the people of our great county put their trust in us to deliver for them. We have repaid that trust with a lot of hard work and many delivered promises.
‘Just before the election last year I said that if the Conservatives won then I would lead a Council that would listen to local people and not just dictate, which would value all people equally and would provide the very best services which they rely on day in and day out. And even after just one year I am very proud of our record.
‘We promised that we would stop Labour’s vanity project of moving County Hall to Ashington, and we have delivered on this. Not only will we invest in the existing site in Morpeth but we have been working hard to secure exciting new retail investment on the development site in the centre of Ashington.
‘We made a promise to the people of Northumberland that if we were elected we would scrap Arch Development Company and replace it with a new company – one that is fit for purpose and can deliver cost effective and innovative projects right across the county. That is exactly what we are doing. The arrogance and waste that we have uncovered at Arch should, at the very least, be an embarrassment to those who were in leadership at the time. We will make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
‘Northumberland Conservatives are restoring local democracy through Local Area Councils. At last year’s election we promised we would end the centralisation of power at county hall and give back some decision making to local areas and local communities. We have delivered on this promise and we are seeing more engagement at a local level.
‘On education, there are still many challenges ahead but the recent consultation in West Northumberland has shown that we really are a council that will listen and act. We will not ignore the ideas and contributions of communities and moving forward we will work in partnership to make every child’s education the very best it can be. We have demonstrated this again with our proactive and positive response to the rising demand for Special Education Needs school places within Northumberland. We will do all that we can to make sure every child has the education and care they deserve.
‘This winter has proved very difficult for many people as we have battled the snow and cold. The County’s highways team have worked tirelessly to keep us moving and they deserve our thanks. However, the big challenge that the ‘Beast from the East’ has left us is numerous potholes. Northumberland Conservatives have been successful in securing extra funding from national Government to help with this significant challenge, but we know there is still more to do, and it will continue to be a key focus over the coming months.
‘As I look ahead to the next year there are some exciting projects on the horizon. I have been working with Government to create a new start for the North of Tyne area, covering Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside with fully devolved funding and powers setting us free to make our own future. This will be a great opportunity for us to secure additional investment, bring new jobs to our patch and to give a clear focus in promoting our area both nationally and internationally. A £600 million investment fund and a new elected major give us the tools to make a real difference starting on 1st July of this year.
We hope to see the re-opening of the new passenger rail line from Newcastle to south east Northumberland move closer as we have gained Government support, we will reinvigorate our fantastic market towns through additional and better parking and we will see some radical improvements in the way we look after older and vulnerable adults. Northumberland really is leading the way on joining up health and social care and I am very excited about the prospect setting a gold standard for the way we look after those who need our support.
‘Just last week I launched Great Northumberland. This is a celebration of the cultural and artistic heritage of our county and a way of capitalising on the Great Exhibition of the North which lands on Tyneside this summer. Those of us lucky enough to live and work in Northumberland already know what a great place it is, but this summer’s activities will give us the chance to showcase Northumberland to the 3 million expected visitors. Northumberland really is great, and it is a real privilege and honour to serve as leader of the County Council.’