group formed to save Burnham-On-Sea Tourist Centre from axe
is the new group that was formed on Thursday evening (28th January)
to save Burnham-On-Sea's Tourist Information Centre from closure.
new working party - comprising business, council and tourism chiefs
- was appointed during a meeting attended by almost 60 people
at Burnham's Town Council Chambers.
new group, consisting of Cllr Neville Jones, Jonathan Walter,
Bob Nicholson, Bob Smart, Eileen Shaw, Annette Haggett, Doug Bamsey,
Tom Ashton, Graham Plant, Roger Keen, Les Barber and Michael Clarke,
has the job of finding sources of funding to secure the future
of the seafront facilities.
Neville Jones revealed at the meeting that the centre's short-term
is safe after the Town
Council's Finance Committee decided to award a "significant
sum of lifeline funding" to keep it open until October while
the new group searches for funding.
Jones said: "This will act as a lifeline to keep the Tourist
Information Centre (TIC) open and allow us enough time to find
a solution. It gets us over the immediate problem and keeps the
centre open during the summer tourist season," he said.
centre's budget and revenue was unveiled for the first time, with
gross expenditure for 2009/10 being £126,570 and income
being £44,440 - making a net annual loss of £82,130.
Bamsey, Corporate Director at Sedgemoor District Council,
told the audience why the council is being forced to close the
centre. He said: "We face the challenging reality of numerous
financial pressures and have to make huge savings."
explained: "The cost of concessionary bus fares, extra recycling,
reduced financial support from central government and reduced
council tax income have all taken their toll. Last year, the council
had to remove £100,000 from the tourist centres' budget.
While we received £400,000 of LABGI (Local Authority Business
Growth Incentive) funding from London to keep the centres running
for a year, this will soon run out and new funding will not available
for the next financial year."
a consequence, we have no money in the budget to keep the centres
running. Reluctantly, therefore, and despite the excellent work
of the team in Burnham to maximize income and reduce the reliance
on subsidies, the centre will have to close at the end of the
financial year unless other partners can take it on. We are very
keen to help the working group on this."
Anne Fraser, Sedgemoor's Executive Portfolio Holder for Strategy
and Business Development, told the meeting that it "saddens
me enormously" to be discussing the possible closure of the
centre. She added: "I want to acknowledge the hard work and
dedication of the TIC team in Burnham. We have one of the leading,
award-winning TICs in the country, and it is with great sadness
that we are holding this meeting. I don't want our TIC to disappear
- it brings a huge amount to both our community and economy and
I hope we can find a good outcome."
discussion was opened up to the floor, when the audience had a
chance to give views on the best way forward. Gillian Davies
of Cheddar Parish Council said: "The problem is far wider
than Burnham alone. Many councils are struggling to keep their
TICs open." She asked whether South West Tourism had been
approached for funding, to which Mr Bamsey said other groups "have
not given us any positive feedback."
Parkin questioned why annual employee costs at Burnham TIC
amounted to £78,530. She said: "Those costs are astronomical
from a business point of view. The figure needs to be dramatically
reduced, possibly by using a mixture of professionals and lesser-skilled
Nicholson, Chairman of the Somerset Tourist Association, told
the meeting: "I feel very sympathetic for the staff, who
are here with us at this meeting tonight, and feel very uncomfortable
to be discussing these matters. It is ridiculous that more funding
from South West Tourism cannot be secured considering the whole
of our region receives over £1million a year but no-one
sees where the cash goes. We should be lobbying central government
Ken Smout asked about the new working party's objectives,
while Pat Stokes asked whether the existing seafront tourist
centre building could be sold, possibly to fund the creation of
the service at another venue. Louise Parkin said another
venue of the same stature would be difficult to find. Ann Fox
asked how the M5 tourist centre at Sedgemoor Services is financed,
to which Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton said it is run by
the County Council. Bob Smart said part of the problem
with financing TICs is that there are differing views on them
at County and District level.
Keen lashed out at Sedgemoor District Council, saying: "It
has been utter gross incompetence and treachery to allow the tourist
centre to get into this position" and it added that it should
have been better managed by the council.
Lows asked whether a better location for the centre, possibly
in Burnham High Street, had been considered.
Walter asked whether the centre should charge higher commissions
for accommodation bookings in order to boost revenue, while Sonya
Fudge asked whether more charges for tourism services could
be introduced, in addition to more advertising space at the centre.
Ashton questioned what proportion of Burnham TIC's annual
supplies and services cost, amounting to £36,810, is taken
up by district council charges. He also asked for "a strong
missive" to be sent to Downing Street regarding the cuts
in tourism funding. Town Clerk Eileen Shaw cautioned, however,
that "trying to change the minds of central government is
not a quick job."
Parkin asked whether the district council could match the
Town Council's 'lifeline funding' by scrapping rent charges on
the tourist centre, to which Mr Bamsey responded that "some
budget may be available to help with this."
new working party was appointed, comprising Cllr Neville Jones
from the Town Council, Graham Plant from Burnham Holiday Village,
Tom Ashton from Warren Guesthouse, Les Barber from a local travel
firm, Bob Nicholson from Somerset Tourist Association, Bob Smart
from Cheddar Caves, Jonathan Walter from the Chamber of Trade,
Michael Clarke from Pontins, local businessman Roger Keen, Eileen
Shaw from the Town Council, Annette Haggett from Sedgemoor's tourist
team, and Doug Bamsey from SDC.
after the meeting, Cllr Jones told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "It
was a positive evening and many useful suggestions and ideas were
put forward. The working group will be strong and will act as
a tourism assembly to make decisions. We will meet in a fortnight's
time to take this all forward and I am sure we will find a positive
outcome in the end."
last November that the centre's future could be in doubt due to
district council funding cuts.