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Response to Allegations and Criticism posted on Morpeth Matters - Statement by Councillor Joan Tebbutt

June 2, 2016 11:47 PM
By Councillor Joan Tebbutt

I have considered joining Morpeth Matters purely for the purpose of responding to the outrageous allegations made against me, my husband and the Lib Dems on the Town Council. However, I do not agree with politics on "community" websites. If politicians and their active supporters wish to self-promote and pursue constant campaigns, they should do so on their own websites or Facebook pages, making it clear if they are councillors.

As regards Lib Dem Jeff Reid and the Cabinet meeting re the Core Strategy proposed changes, my comments as they appear on the Tory website and discussed on Morpeth Matters have been heavily edited and give a distorted impression.

The Cabinet vote was NOT in relation to the content of the proposed changes, but about whether to proceed to consultation. To vote against going ahead with the consultation would have been nonsensical, as those with any wisdom know that Northumberland needs the Core Strategy in place. If it is delayed beyond the government imposed deadline, we could end up with a government imposed Local Plan that overrides the Neighbourhood Plan and could be even worse than the current Core Strategy, possibly demanding even more houses in Morpeth. But to vote in favour of the consultation would give the impression of supporting the proposed changes. Jeff Reid spoke effectively against the proposed changes and explained why he would abstain in the vote re proceeding to consultation. Abstaining, but explaining why, was appropriate. Indeed, residents present thanked him for his stance and we have received emails from members of the public saying that Jeff was "brilliant". As one resident said, there is a "difference between politics and "the right thing to do". Much of the time these days these are not the same."

I told Cllr Bawn that "What Morpeth needs is to win the war, not the battle. We need well informed objections submitted in response to the consultation and then to ensure that our position is clear at Examination in Public. We will not change the mind of NCC but could get the Inspector to change the Core Strategy. In order to have a chance to win the war, I would have condemned the changes and, knowing that to vote in favour would have been construed by some as supporting those changes, and also knowing that Labour would steamroll it through anyway, I would have abstained and explained my reasons. "

The discussions on Morpeth Matters re abstention were interesting. The public should know that the Tories on NCC have refused, for over a year, to be involved in the working group overlooking the development of the Core Strategy. Their member of the working group wanted to carry on with the work, but was not allowed to. That is a clear example of "whipping". It is also the ultimate form of abstention; an unacceptable abstention, as if councillors do not take part then they cannot stand up for their electorate. Andrew Tebbutt is part of the working group and submitted his objections to the changes, but was overruled. By the way, the Lib Dems have never been "whipped" on the Town Council.

It should also be publicly known that in a Town Council vote about whether to accept well considered guidance from NCC re use of social media by councillors, everyone present voted in favour except the two Independents, who abstained. Interesting therefore that one Councillor says on Morpeth Matters that; "She should be ashamed of herself if she thinks it is ever acceptable to abstain."

As regards whether all councillors in any party should or should not have the same opinion, what about Members of Parliament? We have the ultimate example of a party in disagreement on our TVs each day, with the despicably bitter and aggressive dispute within the governing party re the EU.

As regards the statement by Richard Wearmouth that Cllr Andrew Tebbutt was, according to David Woodard, "trying to do a deal for the super school at County Hall", this is totally untrue and libellous. I not only know the allegation itself to be untrue, but checked with David Woodard, who said; "I have never made such a suggestion regarding Andrew to anyone and even the thought could not have occurred to me. It is a total fabrication." An apology and retraction are in order. Andrew and all other Morpeth Lib Dems always do their best to promote Morpeth and its interests.

Furthermore, Richard Wearmouth's says that the Tories (I presume he means them when he says "we") made suggestions about the Neighbourhood Plan process. To quote his claims on |Morpeth Matters:-

"We were told by Mrs Tebbutt that it was "very convenient" for us to offer this advice and that the team working on the plan would probably not be able to understand what we were suggesting. She then went ahead and did what we suggested in any case I think."

This is not only entirely fictitious, but suggests that I had a poor view of the superb Plan Preparation Group. I have always the greatest admiration for that group, as they well know. They worked tirelessly to produce the plan and all the necessary documentation. One Tory did try to get involved with the Plan Preparation Group at a very late stage. You do not have to take my word for it that his suggestions were inappropriate and were not accepted. A non Lib Dem Councillor heavily involved in the Neighbourhood Plan and the Plan Preparation Group wrote on 27th January 2015 to the Tory making some suggestions re the process:-

"Thanks XXXXX, however, we are set on a process and path which I remain convinced that is our best and fastest possible route. Your suggestions would (require) discussion and approval by the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, and a total renegotiation of our working relationship with NCC Strategic Planning - who despite your comments ARE our key partners in getting this Neighbourhood Plan adopted. On consideration, it would not be appropriate for you to just come along to the PPG with these suggestions. They are working on detail and delivery and should not be distracted by changes in approach. I am happy to meet 1:1 with you for further discussion - but it would mainly be about convincing you of the practicalities of the situation."

I also wrote to the Tory making the suggestions on 28th January 2015 as follows:-

"I feel I should stress, politely and with all best intentions, that comments like "If not, why not?" In relation to the work of the PPG, are unhelpful and inflammatory. The members of that group have worked their socks off and done their neighbourhood proud, despite the complexities of the work, which nobody envisaged as being so complex in the first instance. Anyone who has not been involved in any of the work over the last two years should perhaps be more circumspect please."

He did apologise.

Joan Tebbutt

2nd June 2016