CAMPAIGNERS are today calling for support from residents to create a new council which will govern their own area.
The town of Houghton has been administered by Sunderland City Council since the Local Government Act of 1974.
Previously, Houghton-le-Spring Urban District Council was the local authority for the area, with Durham County Council dealing with overall issues as part of a two-tier system.
However, many residents and some councillors in the area argue the current situation puts them at a disadvantage because, in their view, wards in the city centre are favoured more in terms of funding for amenities such as parks and public toilets.
Now, independent councillors and residents who are part of the Houghton First group want to get the town its own elected council.
More than 14,000 leaflets detailing the campaigners’ views on the issue will soon be distributed around houses in Houghton and its surrounding areas, citing the improvements that towns such as Seaham and Hetton, places with their own town councils, have seen in recent years.
Independent councillor Colin Wakefield, who serves Copt Hill ward in Houghton, said: “We believe this is the best way forward for Houghton. A town council can get involved and provide a voice for local residents in many of the decisions currently taken by Sunderland City Council.
“They also have powers to provide things like public toilets, a much needed facility in Houghton Town Centre, care for and run things like allotments, play areas, village halls, cemeteries, traffic calming measures and maintenance of war memorials and, most importantly, they are consulted and have an input on all planning applications.’’
The group say it needs to collect signatures from 10 per cent of the electorate in the proposed area which would force Sunderland City Council to conduct a Community Governance Review into the possibility of creating a council.
The group add that should the proposals get significant support, £600,000 would need to be generated through council tax payments, which they say would cover the cost of running such an authority.
Sunderland City Council leader Councillor Paul Watson said in response to the calls: “The individual character and needs of every part of our city is taken into account when delivering services, and the views and opinions of every resident and ward councillor fully represented both on full council and in area committee.
“We are aware of the Houghton First Campaign and more than happy to address the concerns that it raises with those involved.”
Those interested in having their say, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Colin Wakefield, Greenbank. Coaley Lane, Newbottle, Houghton, DH4 4SQ.
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