Newbury - Town Council Update - Meeting the Challenges!
"Newbury Town Council is working actively with partners in Newbury to find ways to provide important local services which have been affected by the cuts at District Council level", according to Councillor David Goff, Leader of the Town Council.
"When West Berkshire District Council consulted on its proposals last November, we did likewise and we asked the people of Newbury for their views on whether or not the Town Council should support services such as CCTV, Public Toilets and the Visitor Information Centre. The responses we received showed us that there was support for the Town Council to meet these challenges and we have provided funding for all of them in our budget for 2016-17."
Thames Valley Police will provide £36,000 towards maintaining CCTV coverage and the Town Council has earmarked £12,000 towards this project. Newbury BID (Business Improvement District) and West Berkshire Business Watch are also working with us on this and we are very pleased that we will all be able to provide CCTV services in Newbury.
We looked seriously at options to retain the Visitor Information Centre but we could not afford to take it over because of the costs associated with TUPE ( Transfer of Undertakings - Protection of Employment Directive) . However, we are working with the BID to support Visit Newbury, a visitor information website for Newbury and with West Berkshire District Council to explore options for visitor information through the Library, the Museum and/ or the Corn Exchange.
The public toilets at The Wharf are also due to close and the Town Council does not have the funding to continue this service. In any event, these toilets close at 6.00 pm each evening and during the day there are other options around the Town, such as the Library and the Museum, as well as shopping centres, some of the larger stores and some other Town Centre businesses which are open to the public.
Of course we regret the cuts in West Berkshire Council's budgets, which are impacting on social services but we have retained our budget of £17,500 to support the Citizens' Advice Bureau and a budget of £10,550 to make grants available for good causes, which will be match funded by findmeagrant.co.uk in collaboration with Greenham Common Trust."
Councillor Goff said that he would like to take this opportunity to point out that the programme of works that the Council has planned for Victoria Park, including the repairs to the Park, the new water play feature for children and the proposals for a new café in the Park are all funded from earmarked and external funds, such as the settlement received from Costains and grants from outside bodies, so these works are not impacting on the Council tax or precept paid by the people of Newbury.
I'm sure this is strictly right, but 'earmarked funds' are really just weasel words for 'monies from West Berkshire Council we'd rather keep quiet about'. Why not just be straight? When this comes out, I'd think people will be even more cross about the cuts to essential services. I'm not sure I'd take it too well if my boss told me my job was going because the firm was losing money only to find he'd installed a water feature in reception. Someone at the Town Council has a very strange view of priorities.
The impetus to look at this again wasn't exactly expected but reading this again shows how much things have progressed locally! What's changed now that austerity us behind us? Well, nothing. I suppose the saddest thing is going to be the result of next year's elections, I can see NWNs headlines now - ' Newbury votes no change '.