Wisbech is quids in after Cabinet visit - it's now time to stop suggesting that town is treated in isolation

PUBLISHED: 16:37 08 March 2012

CCC Cabinet members and invited guests at the Archant's business breakfast in Wisbech.

CCC Cabinet members and invited guests at the Archant's business breakfast in Wisbech.

Archant

THANK you for your invitation to breakfast at the Boathouse and for your input into getting Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet to Wisbech.

I think Alan Melton (Leader of Fenland District Council and Nick Clarke, Leader of Cambridgshire County Council) gave people a lot to think about, and it is clear that there continues to be a commitment to do more in Wisbech.

I do think that it is still a bit of a shame though that people still focus a little too much on giving the impression that the money being spent in Wisbech is somehow being denied to other places.

For those who study the patterns of investment since 1974, in the various towns, and across the County, it becomes clear quite quickly that Wisbech (and Fenland as a whole) is now playing catch up. There is no unfairness about it. The investment is a bit belated but it is vital to build a strong Fenland and a stronger Cambridgeshire.

None of this, hopefully, has anything to do with bringing Wisbech up to the standard of other places in the County or even about demonstrating a commitment to Wisbech by the District and County Council’s – it is all about, I hope, investing in a town that has suffered from serious underinvestment since 1974. And it would be most useful if we now stopped suggesting that somehow Wisbech is being treated in isolation.

As I’ve said on occasion Fenland is only as strong as its weakest link. As Wisbech grows stronger the whole District will grow stronger. As the District grows stronger the County will grow stronger.

The Leader of Fenland District Council and the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council certainly seemed to understand this at breakfast this morning, and it is very encouraging that the County Council is carrying on the excellent work in the North of the County begun by Cllr Mrs Jill Tuck just a couple of years ago.

Wisbech Town Council is, arguably, doing its best too - and with slightly less resources.

Just to put things in perspective Fenland District Council has more than 600 staff with a budget of £42million. The county council has more than 6,000 staff with a budget of £848million. And Wisbech Town Council has three and a bit staff with a budget of £323,000.

My Deputy and I are consequently very pleased indeed to have the principle authorities on our side.

In the last five years we have enjoyed a great deal of support from Fenland District Council, and in the spirit of Localism Wisbech Town Council purchased the freehold of the Council Chamber and offices for £1.00 five years ago.

Two years ago we bought the freehold of 43 acres allotments for £1.00 and Fenland gave the town £18,000 towards their upkeep; and last year we purchased the Market Place for £1.00 with Fenland giving the Town Council £25,000 towards improvements.

I reckon this was three pounds well spent by the Town Council.

The best of it is, of course, that the transfers have saved Fenland District Council money, and it is a fact that the Town Council is spending less money to run the three services.

On the Market Place alone the saving to the Council tax payer is more than £40,000 per year, with Fenland saving £129,000 but Wisbech spending just £89,000 per year to run the Market Place.

Within that £89,000 Wisbech will also be able to provide parking management which was never achieved before, and we are just awaiting an experimental order from Cambridgeshire County Council to make the parking management possible.

We and the County will then be investing in signage and road traffic controls that will see the Market Place significantly more pedestrian friendly with time limited parking on the south side only, covered by stringent controls and fines for offenders – and no parking on the North side of the Market Place or the roads.

That is the plan – it will be many months yet before the controls are in place, but we believe that with co-operation between the three Councils everything is possible.

ERBIE MURAT

Town Clerk

Wisbech Town Council

Via e-mail

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