REGENERATING Hebburn’s run-down shopping centre is at the heart of a former Labour councillor’s campaign as he seeks re-election as an independent.
Hebburn North councillor Ian Harkus was de-selected as a candidate by ward members late last year in favour of 19-year-old student Adam Ellison.
He admits his rejection was a bitter blow, but he now he hopes the townsfolk he served since 2011 will re-elect him as an independent at the local elections in May.
The 48-year-old said: “I got on with Adam. He’s a nice lad. I’ve nothing against him, but I now realise that the party was probably grooming him to take my place.
“I will be campaigning on grassroot issues, and the thing you hear most often from people in the town, time and time again, is ‘what’s happening to Hebburn shopping centre?’
“We were told in meetings prior to Christmas that the council was imminently going to put pathways through the shopping centre, but nothing has happened.
“We were told that Asda, which owns the shops, was going to carry out work on the shopfronts, but nothing has happened.
“I’ll be pressing for answers to find out when something will happen.
“The shops are run down, and there are too many to let signs. The centre needs investment.
“It’s not just the shopping centre. I want to see streets in Hebburn North back to the standard you would expect.
“The area has been neglected over the years and there’s too much fly-tipping.
“I know the council has cuts to make, but more really needs to be done.”
Coun Harkus has already distributed 4,000 leaflets around the ward as part of his drive to be re-elected on Thursday, May 7.
The other candidates so far to declare in Hebburn North are Labour’s Adam Ellison and the Green Party’s Matthew Giles.