Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Last minute proposals to cut the Town Centre Management budget are brought up by Devon County Council.
ELEVENTH hour proposals to slash the budget of Barnstaple Town Centre Management have been condemned as irresponsible and harmful by the leader of North Devon Council.
Councillor Brian Greenslade said that while high streets were fighting for survival, it was ridiculous of Devon County Council to try and withdraw funding from TCM schemes working to promote local economies.
He was responding to plans revealed at the county cabinet meeting on Wednesday, when it was suggested the £40,000 TCM budget be allocated to highways maintenance instead – just two weeks before the start of the new financial year.
Barnstaple TCM is funded by local councils and private businesses, promoting the town and its traders in a wide variety of ways.
Barnstaple would stand to lose about £5,000, but DCC said its TCM contribution was always intended for small ad hoc works to repair roads and pavements in town centres.
“That might not sound like an awful lot, but for a small organisation to suddenly lose funding two weeks or so before the start of the financial year is not very good news,” said Mr Greenslade.
“In my view it’s just not the right time to be cutting back on supporting organisations like this when the high streets are suffering quite badly.
“It was also the way DCC was going about it, at the last minute and not even advising myself or Chris Haywood as the local county councillors on the TCM board.”
After these concerns were raised at the meeting, it was agreed that a full consultation would take place before a decision on funding was made.
“Hopefully we have salvaged it for Barnstaple TCM and Heather Barnes, director of place at DCC, has subsequently assured me she will lead the consultation on TCM funding, which gives me confidence the matter will now be properly dealt with,” added Mr Greenslade.
“Presumably the TCM had already taken this into account for its 2013/14 budget and if they don’t get it there will be a gap and something they were going to do will not happen.”
Cllr Chris Haywood said Barnstaple TCM did ‘a brilliantly good job’: “They have brought in so many things over the years and the BID Barnstaple project has attracted money for many different events.
“The town has thrived through it and I think it is sad that once again cuts threaten something that is a big positive for the area.”
The Gazette spoke to Barnstaple TCM manager Craig Bulley and district council regeneration officer Ellen Vernon, but both said they did not wish to comment without fully briefing TCM members.
A county council spokesman said the council was considering its contribution to the fund, in discussion with district councils, before making a decision.