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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Town council’s role must be properly defined

I’VE spoken in this blog before about devolution of assets from the county council.

A bad move, in my view, and one that’s more likely to cause fury among residents when they see the monstrous rise in their council tax precepts than to create a harmonious utopia of localism and grassroots decision making.

But Prudhoe Town Council has now been faced with an even stranger dilemma - whether to take on not only county council play parks, but those created by private developers.

Essentially, Gentoo Homes, who were given planning approval for a 60 home residential development at Prudhoe Hospital, are looking to the town council to take responsibility for maintenance and management.

It’s a long-term plan and the company, to be fair, have been frank in their discussions and generous when it comes to financial support.

Still, town mayor Coun. Jennifer McGee was right to raise concerns at the latest meeting of the town council’s planning, contract and works committee.

Prudhoe has been no stranger to development in recent years, so could this open the floodgates to a string of similar requests?

And, if so, could the financial burden of fulfilling such responsibilities prove way too much?

It’s a question of what exactly the role of town councils is to be in future.

Traditionally, they’ve taken care of the most local of local issues, while the district and county councils have divided the big stuff between themselves.

With Tynedale Council out of the way, and the new unitary authority having just about found its feet, there needs to be a clearer definition of, in short, who does what.

The alternative is that town and parish councils, rather than flourishing as many had hoped, will be crippled with uncertainty to the point that rational decision making becomes impossible.

By Robin Gilson
Published: November 17, 2011

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