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Council leader defends cabinet's county tour
7:30am Friday 11th October 2013 in News
A COUNCIL leader has strongly defended holding cabinet meetings around the county, saying there must be a connection between politicians and the people.
Durham County Council rotates its cabinet meetings around the 862sq mile county to encourage people to attend and ask questions.
With the Labour-run authority facing cuts of £222m, the policy has attracted criticism.
Michael Hawkins, of Langley Park, said: “I was under the impression that we have a purpose-built headquarters where these meetings can be held at little cost rather than gallivanting around the county, especially in these difficult times when we are all being asked to tighten our belts.
“The county council should be setting a good example and not wasting money in this manner, but that sort of thing does not seem to register in the ivory towers of local government.”
However, council leader Simon Henig firmly rejected any criticism.
He said costs were kept to a minimum, with an example being that all cabinet members were driven to Wednesday’s cabinet meeting at The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle on one minibus, but he insisted the policy would continue.
“Places like Barnard Castle are just as much part of the county as Durham City is. We’re going to keep going round the county.
“There has to be that connection. The cabinet has to know what issues there are in Teesdale.”
The public question-and-answer sessions have often been poorly attended and the council’s 14 Area Action Partnerships are now being encouraged to ask questions when the cabinet visits their locality.
However, Coun Henig said a previous cabinet meeting held in Barnard Castle had attracted a record number of members of the public.
On Wednesday, Teesdale Action Partnership chair Simon Land asked questions about rural broadband and dales tourism.
A council spokeswoman said where possible it tried to use council buildings for cabinet meetings but where non-council buildings were used, there was usually a small hire charge.
Councillors are paid mileage costs but where cabinet is held away from County Hall cabinet members travel together to reduce costs, she added.
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