CHIEF executive of Northumberland County Council, Steven Mason, has been forced to back down on his controversial decision to withdraw public notices from the Hexham Courant.
True to a pre-election pledge from Northumberland Conservatives, the reinstatement of the legal notices relating to Tynedale – which have been appearing in the Northumberland Gazette since December – was one of the first post-election directives issued by party leader Coun. Peter Jackson.
As Coun. Jackson works on forming the council’s new administration, he acknowledged the public outcry over announcements relating to Tynedale road closures and planning applications appearing in the Alnwick-based Gazette had pushed the issue to the top of the agenda.
“During a meeting on Monday morning Steven Mason realised that it was the right way to move forward on the issue,” said Coun. Jackson.
“It was something I took up with him at the very first opportunity because I’d been taken aback by the number of residents, right throughout the Tynedale area, who were up in arms about it.
“They resented the fact that this really important information, some of it relating to major planning applications, was taken away from them.
“I’m happy to have been able to deliver on the pledge we made to resolve it.”
A 50-word email delivering an abrupt instruction from Mr Mason to all heads of department across the council was uncovered as part of Freedom of Information (FOI) request last month.
An equally brief email trail relating to the decision, amounting to just 10 messages, made no reference to any opinion sought on the legality of the move.
The Your Right To Know campaign, launched by the Courant to challenge the impact of the decision on the values of transparency, accountability and local democracy, included a 2,700-name petition and cross-party support from councillors, Hexham’s MP and even Secretary of State, Sajid Javid.
Hexham East’s Coun. Cath Homer said: “I’ve had sight of an email from Steven Mason which was issued straight after the meeting with Coun. Jackson.
“To have the notices back in the Courant is fantastic news for the people of Tynedale and it’s great that we have already been able to deliver on that promise.
“This area has been neglected for too long and it’s time people had a proper voice and got their fair share.”