CAMPAIGNING older people claim they are winning hearts and minds in South Tyneside over radical plans for a council shake-up.
Members of Forum 50, the borough’s Older People’s Parliament, were angered at what they see as South Tyneside Council bosses ‘ignoring’ their call to cut the number of elected representatives from 54 to 36.
They had been invited to come up with cost-saving measures to help the local authority bridge a £20m funding shortfall, and also called for members’ allowances to be slashed by 50 per cent.
But when the ideas were dismissed, the group decided to go to the people by launching a petition.
After just a few weeks touring shopping centres and community complexes throughout the borough, almost 2,000 people have signed on the dotted line in support of the ideas.
Former borough councillor, Greenwell Jewitt, chairman of Forum 50, said he had been “uplifted and delighted” at the support they have received.
The group is poised to get near its 3,000-name target before the petition is handed over on April 11.
Mr Jewitt, of Cheltenham Drive, Boldon, said: “We will be meeting up on April 4 to analyse and authenticate the numbers and signatures and, a week later, the hope is that the council chief executive will accept our petition on the steps of the town hall before that day’s full council meeting.
“The response has been magnificent.
“Apart from one woman at The Nook, not one single person has refused to sign it. It seems to have hit a nerve with the public.”
The group estimates that cutting councillor numbers by 18 and allowances by 50 per cent will save the authority £300,000 a year – with no reduction in services.
Mr Jewitt added: “Given the strength of feeling that we have encountered, the council must give this serious consideration. They can’t just dismiss the feelings of the people of South Tyneside and brush us under the table.”
Canvassers have been out in South Shields, Jarrow, Hebburn, Whitburn, Boldon and Cleadon.
“They have been magnificent,” said Mr Jewitt, adding. “There is one lady from Jarrow, who is 84, who has collected 500 signatures. That’s typical of the commitment of the volunteers,”