COUNCIL bosses have been accused of playing paving politics over the allocation of cash to improve path and road surfaces in South Tyneside.
Nearly £3m has been spent in the past two years to Tarmac pavements in three borough wards, to make the surfaces easier to repair.
Two of those wards are Horsley Hill, South Shields, represented by council leader Coun Iain Malcolm, and Simonside and Rekendyke, which his brother Ed – the authority’s lead member for resources and innovation – represents.
Coun Steve Harrison, the UKIP member for Fellgate and Hedworth in Jarrow, has accused the brothers of “favouring their own backyards” at the expense of other wards and claims to have spoken to Labour figures who are furious at the allocation of cash.
He says he has contacted the Local Government Ombudsman for advice on the matter.
Coun Iain Malcolm dismissed the allegations and defended the council’s record on surfacing.
He said council officers had identified pavements in the borough in need of repairs on a “worst-first” basis and all areas would eventually have the work carried out.
And he also said environmental improvements in Coun Harrison’s own ward was “one of the biggest spends in the borough”.
The dispute centres on the council’s so-called ‘flags to flexible’ spending – a programme earmarked specifically to cover pavements with longer-lasting Tarmac where necessary.
In the past two years, £291,000 was spent Tarmacing pavements at Trinity South, in the Simonside and Rekendyke ward, and £511,000 on the Horsley Hill ward. Of the cash allocated so far to the ‘flags to flexible’ scheme, the highest spend is £1,931,000 in Hebburn North.
Coun Harrison said: “One senior Labour councillor came to me absolutely astonished at this funding.
“There is a lot of anger at this favouritism towards the leader and his brother’s wards. I raised my concerns eight weeks ago with the chief executive of the council and I’ve still heard nothing back.
“Senior Labour figures are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
“At Rothbury Avenue in Monkton they need just £5,000 to repair potholes and they got nothing. Then you see this spending. It’s a disgrace. I may no longer be the opposition leader on the council but I am speaking out for all wards in the borough in my capacity as chairman of UKIP South Tyneside.”
Coun Malcolm said: “What Coun Harrison is trying to allege is these areas are the only ones getting any money. Officers have gone across the borough and said these are the worst areas, and we need to start there first. I can’t help they have started in my ward. All areas will get done eventually.
“His idea is all the money has gone to Ed Malcolm’s ward and my ward. You can say in the Gazette that all the money’s gone to the leader’s ward. That will just give me credit in Horsley Hill for bringing more money in but, the point is, it just wouldn’t be true. He is trying to suggest they don’t get any money in Fellgate and Hedworth, but the full amount of money we have spent on potholes, gullies, road improvements, maintenance schemes, carriage works, flooding and footpaths in Fellgate and Hedworth is £566,000 from April 2012 until now, one of the biggest spends in the borough.”
Coun Harrison responded: “I don’t know where he’s getting his figures from, he’s probably including everything, including community area forum spending.
“Under those circumstances the figure for Horsley Hill would probably be closer to £5m to £6m.”
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