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More doubt cast over £10,000 grant for Bishop's Waltham
2:00pm Thursday 11th October 2012 in News
FURTHER doubt has been cast over a £10,000 grant for Bishop’s Waltham after councillors branded the proposal “farcical”.
The town is in line for the cash as a ‘consolation prize’ after unsuccessful bids to be part of retail guru Mary Portas’ high street regeneration scheme.
But parish councilors have locked horns on how best to use the money.
Originally earmarked to pay for a town centre administrator to boost trade, there was strong opposition at a parish council meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting heard that the administrator would be employed for one or two days per week, at approximately £37,000 pro rata, with future payments being met by funds from both the city council and the parish — money Cllr Terry Wilson felt could not be justified.
“It’s just farcical to me,” he said.
“I discussed this with the chamber of trade at the time, back in 2008, and they said no. But why should the parish council be paying money so that businesses can earn more money for themselves?”
Addressing the meeting, Cllr Rona Pickering said she had not ruled out the idea, but urged further consideration. She said: “How can we justify spending this amount on only one area of Bishop’s Waltham? “Of course the town centre is important, but so are other projects.”
Cllr Robert Shields, expressed support for the idea, said: “The town centre is Bishop’s Waltham. “This money is pumping Winchester City Council to support our town. The details at present are sketchy. Is it work other groups could be doing? “Well, I’m afraid the other groups are stretched. We’ve been talking about it for ages and this is a chance to get it done.”
In May the parish council cooperated with the chamber of trade to set up a town team, prompting Cllr Wilson to ask: “If we have this town manager, are we going to get rid of the town team, or are we going to have them both? It just does not make sense to me.”
Cllr Barry Nicholson said in response: “As a member of the town team, I need to say that the town team was set up to secure the Portas fund. “I suggest we defer voting on this item until we know whether we have the £10,000.”
Earlier this month Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery admitted he had been premature in announcing that the cash had been awarded. A spokesman for the department for communities and local government told the Hampshire Chronicle that the money “has not been approved or paid out yet”.
Confirmation on the grant — which would be handed to the city council and then distributed to Bishop’s Waltham — is expected in the coming weeks.