Leading Councillor Challenged to a Public Debate

Leading Councillor Challenged to a Public Debate

The Leader of the Newcastle upon Tyne Community First Party has today challenged the Cabinet Member for Quality of Life to a public debate over the council’s Local Development Framework Core Strategy.

It was Jason Smith’s address to full council that prompted a motion to council to extend the consultation and has resulted in a one-month extension to the consultation.   

By challenging Cllr Henri Murison – the senior member of the Labour Cabinet who signed off the One Core Strategy – to a public debate, Jason Smith intends to have an honest conversation with residents about the Labour masterplan for housing and other development. The One Core Strategy was started by Lib Dems and signed off by Labour and campaigners believe the plan will have a disasterous impact on local residents.

A number of residents who have attended the Let’s Talk and ward committee meetings complain that they are stage managed and very political. There are concerns that residents are unable to have a frank debate about the issues.

Jason Smith, who is also the party’s Lemington spokesman, said: “This is one of the most important documents the council has produced in half a century. What started as a simple planning document has ballooned out of all proportion. It will see a massive expansion in the number of houses in the West of Newcastle, much of which is on greenbelt land, and residents in other areas mainly in the East of the city fear the development they have long hoped for will now be on the back-burner.

“Labour in Newcastle claim they want to be accountable yet, at every public meeting, Cllr Murison brings his council officer minders to answer the awkward questions raised by residents. This consultation is so important for our city that residents need to hear it like it is. So far, all public meetings held have been chaired by councillors - usually Labour councillors - and include a panel consisting of council officers, who developed the strategy, with Cllr Murison, the man who approved it. There is no balance and Let's Talk is increasingly becoming a party political broadcast rather than a conversation.

“Cllr Murison may feel I am not a worthy opponent because I am no council insider but it's vital that we have a dialogue of different views to let the residents of our city shape its future. If he considers himself to be accountable to the people of this city, he will accept the challenge to appear on a platform with me to debate the One Core Strategy and Labour's plans to build houses on sites people value.”

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