THE Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has intensified pressure on Northumberland County Council to restore public notices to the Hexham Courant .

Sajid Javid called on the authority to reverse its decision to remove notices relating to West Northumberland from the Courant , and publish them instead in the Alnwick-based Northumberland Gazette.

The notices, featuring vital information on local road closures and planning applications, have been withdrawn from the Courant - the most read newspaper in the area - prompting overwhelming criticism across local communities. The Gazette doesn't even register as circulating in West Northumberland.

Mr Javid said the council’s decision was a blow to transparency and local democracy, and called on the council’s leadership to reconsider.

The council's chief executive, Steven Mason, has so far refused to budge on the issue.

“I believe it is crucial the people of Hexham and communities across Tynedale get to find out about the information which can have an impact on their daily lives,” said Mr Javid.

“Not only that, but taxpayers deserve the right to see how their money is being spent and what Northumberland County Council is doing with it to improve their lives. Withholding information from this newspaper is not good for transparency and local democracy.

“I struggle to see how this could be a decision made on financial grounds as these notices would cost the council a tiny fraction of its annual budget, and I would call upon Northumberland County Council to think again.

“Residents deserve to be kept informed of the council’s activities and I back the petition signed by hundreds of local people calling on a reversal of this decision.”

On Wednesday, a petition bearing 2,700 names in support of the Courant’s Your Right To Know campaign was handed over to the county council.

The council’s own west area committee, along with several parish and town councils across the district, has also demanded the decision to be reversed.