COAST: Town councils do make a difference

A M Johnson and David Helmsley (News Guardian, July 2) don’t appear to grasp the reasons why so many of us believe it is necessary to reclaim at least some control over our town’s fortunes by establishing a council for the coastal area.

Neither mentions the causes of disaffection, which are: (1) chronic lack of maintenance, leading to the loss/depreciation in value of so many of our capital assets; (2) lack of consultation with local people; and (3) the fact that council decisions largely affecting our town are carried by built-in majorities, defined not by residence but by party political allegiance.

To argue that, well, yes, not everything the council does is good, but on balance it is doing its best, addresses none of these concerns.

Nor does the ‘money is scarce’ excuse. If money is scarce, why skimp on maintenance while splashing out on things like the displacement of the road along the seafront at £1.2m, or the unnecessary duplication of an existing amenity, at £1.8m? Why the ‘plaza’? What was wrong with the larger, more practical and better protected Panama Dip?

As for the suggestion that the drive for a local council springs from party political sour grapes on the part of outnumbered Conservatives, this is way off the mark.

The view of ‘A New Beginning’ is that party politics have no place in local government, and we would hope that representatives whose commitment is first and foremost to the coastal area and its residents would come forward to work together.

Mr Helmsley believes that the introduction of democratic representation at a local level would make no difference. This is not the experience of other areas that have set up town councils and which, at the price of as little as £15 a year for a Band D property, can now speak out on behalf of their residents, can demand to see, vet and influence planning proposals at feasibility stage, and can negotiate directly to find funding for the maintenance and improvement of their valued local assets – something that North Tyneside has failed to do in connection with the Central Promenade.

Pamela Hood

Gillian Swanson

‘A New Beginning’,

Whitley Bay