One of the first services to introduce changes to the way it operates is the highways department which will be bringing local town, parish and ward councillors into the heart of its decision making process.
In future, these stakeholders will be fully informed and consulted when highways improvement schemes, or Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) are being considered in their community to ensure that all parties are fully aware of the issues and the proposed work.
Northumberland County Councillor, Glen Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Environment & Local Services, said:
“We have listened to what residents have been telling us and want to ensure that local people have more power and say in decisions that directly affect them and the communities in which they live.”
At the start of each highways improvement scheme, the County Council will draft a brief and this will be discussed with these local community representatives to ensure that the issue of concern has been fully understood and that the problems that need to be resolved have been identified.
If a scheme requires a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), the local town, parish and ward councillors will be consulted, followed by consultation with statutory consultees and any residents directly affected.
The new arrangements also seek to improve upon the existing arrangements for involving local communities in the preparation of the highways investment programme.
Council officers will write to local town, parish and ward councillors annually to share the issues that have been raised within their community and to agree local priority projects for the following year. Subject to funding and eligibility criteria, these projects will then be incorporated into a draft programme which will be reported to the new Local Area Councils for final local comment, before being formally approved.
The new council administration at Northumberland County Council is to introduce five Local Area Councils: North Northumberland, Tynedale, Castle Morpeth, Ashington & Blyth and Cramlington & Bedlington to replace the previous four Area Committees. These area councils will meet monthly, have added responsibilities and aim to bring decision making closer to local communities.
Councillor Sanderson added: “The introduction of five local area councils and improved partnership working with local communities will help ensure that our investments in highways improvement schemes are tailored to meet the needs of the community and deliver better all-round results.
“With over 3,000 miles of roads connecting hundreds of communities, ensuring that we provide the most effective highway improvements with the funding available is a priority for this council.”