A COUNCILLOR has backed down after making false claims that Northumberland County Council offered a bidding process prior to its withdrawal of statutory notices from the Hexham Courant.
At Monday’s meeting of West Wylam Residents’ Association in Prudhoe, Labour county councillor Tony Reid said: “I’ve been told that it went out to tender to all the regional papers in the context of Northumberland.
“Fundamentally the Northumberland Gazette won it.
“I’m led to believe that there’s cost savings in it and that’s the reason why they went down that particular route.
“I support the stance that the county group has taken.”
However, after the meeting, Northumberland County Council confirmed that there was no tender process for the placement of the notices.
A spokeswoman said: “As there are only two main publishers in Northumberland , the only prospect of a competitive arrangement being reached, which realises a meaningful saving across the county, was with Johnston Press (owner of the Northumberland Gazette).”
Responding to this, Coun. Reid said that he had picked up the misinformation from a county council meeting.
He said: “I asked questions at a county council meeting to clarify the position and that was what my impression was.
“I understood that they went through some process to assess a new way to provide that service.
“I naturally thought there was some kind of process where people were invited to express an interest.
“If I’m told contrary to that, I have to accept it.
“I’m pretty certain that the people involved in the decision did it with the best intentions.”
The issue was the focus of fierce debate at the residents association meeting.
Mayor of Prudhoe, Coun. Jennifer McGee said: “I think the county is totally off course with this decision. To be quite honest, I don’t know what they’re playing at.”
Referring to the county council’s decision to close a popular youth club at the East Centre – overturned following a public backlash – Prudhoe town councillor, George McCreedy added: “I think the Hexham Courant has been penalised because the Courant published a great column after the fiasco about the East Centre.
“It’s pitiful and bloody minded. I’ve never known an authority to be run like this one.”