Cllr Susan Dungworth
Cllr Susan Dungworth

It is a crying shame that Northumberland County Council is having to put £5.5m of council tax payer’s money aside to pay a legal claim.

It’s even worse to think this could have been avoided, had Advance Northumberland followed the proper process before taking a decision to close down the Blyth Estuary project because, they said, of Covid 19.

The decision, taken unilaterally by the Advance Northumberland chief executive, was taken without consultation with his own board or the council and was unnecessary at the time, because the government was insisting that building projects could go ahead as long as companies and workers observed social distancing and safe working.

Labour Group leader Susan Dungworth said: “It beggars belief that, having been found out, Advance Northumberland’s chief executive is insisting this decision was made with his board and the council, when we all know this was not the case.

“We know that issues connected with this case are tied up with the suspension of the council’s chief executive Daljit Lally, who we understand raised concerns and highlighted the financial implications of this decision.

“It is unreasonable that the council is hit with a potential legal bill from the building contractors when they had no say in the decisions to suspend the Blyth Estuary project. However, that is what has happened. Had the chief executive of Advance Northumberland worked in partnership with his own board and Northumberland County Council, as he is expected to, this would not have happened.

“It’s also possibly as much as £5.5m which is not available to spend on services for local people. That money could have been used to plug the gap in income in Active Northumberland because of the pandemic. Advance Northumberland’s action could have seriously damaged the future of our leisure facilities, a service that genuinely improves the health and wellbeing of our residents and is needed now more than ever It’s shameful and inexcusable.

“I will be pressing for a thorough explanation and investigation.”

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