Once again, Northumberland County Council has told the opposition Labour group that there wasn’t time to include and ask for their opinion about an important piece of government legislation.
This time it’s pavement licensing arrangements. We understand the rush to allow businesses to operate from the pavement outside their premises because of Covid safety requirements.
We fully support local businesses who we know are desperate to pick their businesses back up after the lock down but, as far as we’re concerned, this is no reason for excluding us from a debate.
There has to be a balance between businesses using the pavement outside their premises and the needs of pedestrians, who still need to observe social distancing.
There will also be access issues for people in wheelchairs, people with children in buggies or prams and those who are affected by sight loss.
Leader of the Labour Group Susan Dungworth said: “Here is another example of the council using Covid and the need to have everything pushed through urgently as an excuse not to consult us.
“It’s just not good enough to be presented with decisions which look like they’re a done deal. The whole point of a democracy is that many voices should be heard. We’re not interested in holding processes up for no good reason but we are interested in making sure that people, who can only be heard because we represent them, have a say.
“It looks like this is going to be reality for some time to come. We urge the council to think a bit more creatively about how it can continue to include all interested parties in the debate while also being able to get important planning issues through for local businesses.”