The Conservative manifesto in 2017 accused Labour of being autocratic and distant and promised that local people at local area councils would make local decisions, not councillors in County Hall.
Therefore, it is ironic to discover that the leader of the council has instructed officers to use temporary Covid-19 powers to remove the right of residents to participate in planning meetings and petitioners to present their petitions to the petitions committee.
They will claim that it is necessary because we are holding virtual meetings, but this is nonsense. The technology enables guests to securely participate in virtual meetings, as any of us who are currently working from home know. Rather, this is the continuation of a trend. First, they banned back bench councillors from attending meetings of which they were not a member and now they are denying residents a chance to participate in meetings and influence the very decisions that affect them.
So, far from giving the public the chance to listen and have a say about matters that affect them, the leaders of Northumberland County Council have slammed the door in the face of local people.
Deputy leader of the Labour group Scott Dickinson said: “It’s a bit rich of the Tories to accuse us of being remote, then take away one of the basic rights of local people.
“We don’t accept blaming Covid-19 for this. If the council was determined to find a way to include people it could do it. Instead it is colluding with the national government, taking away people’s rights to have a say in what matters to them.”