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Breaking: Northumberland Council approves moving 1300 jobs to new headquarters

Northumberland County Council has in the last few minutes approved plans to move its HQ from Morpeth to Ashington, forcings its 1300 staff to transfer their base. Our news correspondent Dan Ashby is at the council meeting and has confirmed the decision, revealing also that Northumberland's existing county hall will be demolished and the land sold.

Bid to reconsider school transport charges defeated

Parents protested outside County Hall in Morpeth Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Dozens of parents protested outside County Hall in Morpeth, over plans to charge over-16s for school transport in Northumberland.

From September, most students between 16 and 18 years old will be charged £600 to use school buses, and will fund their own public transport costs.

The demonstration took place before an extraordinary meeting of the council. It debated a motion put forward by the Conservative group leader, Cllr Peter Jackson.

It called for the change to be suspended and for more consultations with parents.

The motion was narrowly defeated by 34 votes to 30.

Feelings ran high outside County Hall Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The Labour controlled authority says the council must reduce a £3.3m bill for post-16 transport.

Council leader, Cllr Grant Davey said:

"In difficult times, we need to be focusing our resources on those who are in greatest need.

We've listened carefully to what the public have had to say, not just today but throughout the consultation period, but the bottom line is we have to balance our budget."

The Labour group said the cost of arranging today's extraordinary meeting came to £80,000; a figure disputed by others.

The Conservative group leader, Cllr Peter Jackson said:

"I think people had to have their say. People have got a democratic right and right across Northumberland, families and young people are struggling with this new six hundred pound, effectively, tax to go to school.

They had to be heard and their concerns had to be heard and addressed and I think it was the right thing to do."


Parents to protest over Northumberland school bus cuts

A policy of scrapping free school transport for 16-18 year olds in Northumberland is being challenged at an extraordinary meeting this morning.

Parents and students will protest outside County Hall in Morpeth as opposition councillors force a debate with the Labour administration.

The council's ruling group has voted to introduce the policy as part of a £32m pounds programme of budget cuts. Some students and their parents say the move will severely restrict their educational options.

Plans to shut Northumberland headquarters move forward

The council has been based at County Hall since 1981 Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Councillors have voted to move forward with plans to shut the current headquarters of Northumberland County Council and relocate elsewhere.

The council's preferred option is to replace County Hall in Morpeth with a smaller base in Ashington, as part of wider redevelopment of the south east Northumberland town.

The new headquarters would be used in conjunction with other buildings across the county.

The council says the move could save more than £13 million over twenty five years. Critics of the plan say it would have a negative impact on the economy of Morpeth.

More detailed work on a series of options will now take place.


Future of Northumberland County Hall discussed

County Hall in Morpeth would be closed under the proposals Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Plans to close the current headquarters of Northumberland County Council and relocate elsewhere are being discussed this lunchtime.

The council is proposing to shut County Hall in Morpeth and create a smaller headquarters in Ashington.

This would be used in conjunction with other buildings across the county.

Northumberland County Council says the move could save £13 million pounds over the next twenty five years.

The Ashington development would form part of wider plans to regenerate the town.

Councillors are discussing the proposals this lunchtime, with more detailed decisions likely in October.

Cross border councils to meet to discuss independence

Cross border councils are being encouraged to work together. Credit: PA wire

Councils from both sides of the border are meeting for the first time today to discuss the economic future - if the people of Scotland vote yes in September's independence referendum.

The five cross border councils, which includes Northumberland County Council, will meet in Peebles.

The Scottish government announced the launch of the initiative last August after Northumbria University published the Borderlands report.

The report encouraged local authorities on both side of the border to work together to exploit mutual economic and social links.

Northumberland Council set up fraud prevention team

A new fraud prevention team is being set up at Northumberland County Council in a bid to save them over £500,000.

The new Corporate Fraud Team, which will begin its work from April, will be based within Revenues and Benefits.

Between 2012-2013 local governments lost £178million pounds in fraudulent claims. In the same period Northumberland Council investigated 1,158 cases of fraud, giving a total loss of £565,000.

The move will coincide with national changes as part of Welfare Reform, where the Department of Work (DWP) and Pensions plan to create a Single Fraud Investigation Service.

County Council approves budget cuts of over £30 million

Northumberland County Council have formally approved cuts of £32.5 million for the coming financial year.

The full council rubber stamped the savings plans today, agreeing an increase in council tax of just under two percent.

“Setting this budget was a real challenge but our aims were always to be fair to the residents of Northumberland while maintaining essential services and making improvements wherever possible.

“Some of the measures we’ve taken will not only ensure that cuts are fair to residents across the county - but also deliver key improvements on things like affordable housing, economic growth, schools support, local services and free parking where local communities think it will boost the economy.

– Cllr Dave Ledger, Deputy Leader of Northumberland County Council

The Council also agreed today to provide an extra £600,000 funding to accelerate the programme of pothole repairs across the county.

“We have been determined to tackle the damage caused to our road network by severe weather over recent years. This commitment of this administration to reducing the number of potholes should be welcomed by everyone who use the roads.

– Cllr Dave Ledger, Deputy Leader of Northumberland County Council

However Councillor Davey warned that the financial situation was unlikely to improve in the near future. The council now estimates that Northumberland will need to save another £130 million over the next four years.

“It is clear we are going to face more significant cuts in the coming years and work is already underway to plan for the future.”

– Cllr Dave Ledger, Deputy Leader of Northumberland County Council
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