Anger over grant cuts to Tourist Information Centres
ILFRACOMBE councillors have said they are dismayed and disappointed after the town s Tourist Information Centre budget was cut by almost half. Their reaction follows news North Devon Plus is reducing its grant support to local TICs by half, after seeing
ILFRACOMBE councillors have said they are "dismayed and disappointed" after the town's Tourist Information Centre budget was cut by almost half.
Their reaction follows news North Devon Plus is reducing its grant support to local TICs by half, after seeing its own budget cut by �56,100 by North Devon Council.
The Ilfracombe budget has been reduced from the �15,434 paid last year to �8,500 this year and it is a similar story for Barnstaple, Woolacombe, Combe Martin, Lynton, Braunton and South Molton, some of whom have seen their budgets dropped by up to 60 per cent.
North Devon Council had previously paid grants directly to TICs, but following the formation of the North Devon Marketing Bureau, the grant was paid through that organisation, which subsequently became part of North Devon Plus.
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The cutbacks were announced at a Tourism Conference hosted at the Barnstaple Hotel at the end of February. TICs were asked to submit grant applications giving details of performance and accounts so that a settlement could be reached.
Ilfracombe Mayor Philip Webb said the news was particularly disappointing, coming as it did when the whole town was busy trying to gear up to welcome the new ferry service to South Wales.
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"Ilfracombe is the premier tourist destination of North Devon and its promotion should be supported, not undermined, by the agency set up for this purpose," he said, adding that Ilfracombe's TIC saw 214,000 visitors last year.
"This does not make any sense - the Ilfracombe TIC was shown to be one of the most successful at its core role of providing information to visitors - and it operates very efficiently with the funds it has, generating as much again as the grants it receives in order to pay its excellent staff, there is no surplus."
Robin Makeig-Jones, commercial director at North Devon Plus, said there was only so much money to go around.
"We value the services of the TICs and feel very strongly there should be high quality visitor services in the area," he said.
"We have to accept we don't have as much money as we would like to put into it and therefore need to work towards helping achieve a sustainable business model, given the gloomy outlook for public expenditure in the future."
North Devon Plus said it would be working with TICs and other organisations to look at how visitor services are delivered in the area.