A COUNCIL which initiated an ambitious five-year town plan a year ago has defended its decision not to provide second-year funding.
Hexham Town Council refused to pay out £5,000 from the coming 2013-14 budget because the town plan’s special steering group failed to provide adequate details of where the money would be spent.
The decision led to fury among the steering group which in the first year has run a series of consultations among community bodies to establish the way ahead.
Lib Dem town councillor Derek Kennedy accused the majority Conservative group of “dealing a near-lethal blow” to the plan.
And he added: “Once again the Conservative councillors show how out of touch they are. They know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.”
But the chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee, Coun Terry Robson, insisted the funding request could not be met because of its lack of detail.
He said: “This is not about party politics at all. We simply could not allocate any money because there was nothing to allocate it to.
“We would really want to know what it was about. We cannot allocate money for some nebulous thing when we don’t what it is.
“If details had been put in front of us at Monday’s town council meeting, we would have considered it differently.
“But it is not like Hexham River Hydro, or the bandstand, where we know what we are getting.”
Lib Dem town councillor Judy Lloyd, who has led the project, said: “There is no room now for stupid, petty party politics stopping us doing what we could do as a team.
“All I have done is about the whole community of Hexham and I have been so pleased that there were all political parties in that group that have worked with me. And that’s what’s important.
“I was the one who started the Hexham Town Plan off, and I am 100% behind it. But we cannot just hand out money without having all proper details.
“Last year we gave £5,000 as a one-off towards producing a town plan, they haven’t run out of money, and there is a limited contingency fund if something comes up.”
Members of the town plan steering group called ‘shame, shame’ from the public gallery as the council voted 9-1 against Coun Kennedy’s proposal to grant another £5,000.
Barbara Grundey, who made the call, said later: “There is some money left from last year but we cannot produce a town plan with it, so the town plan is now in jeopardy. We are exasperated and concerned.”
Hexham Town Mayor Coun Rad Hare insisted the town plan still had the support of the council but backed Coun Robson in the row.
Coun Hare declared: “If we get a request with some detail, the council will give it its due attention.
“We are totally behind the town plan, and we will find money from somewhere to complete it. We will support it as best we can.”
The town plan, designed to shape Hexham in years ahead, has with a 40-strong team examined transport, the economy, arts and heritage, the built environment, and older residents, and invited townsfolk to make their own comments.
Meanwhile, Hexham Town Council agreed a 2013-14 Council Tax precept of £272,617 - 1.9% up on 2012-13.
The new precept means £10.13 a year will be added to the cost of a Band D property.