Burnham-On-Sea Town Council’s decision to spend £50,000 on keeping the Tourist Information Centre open for the summer season came under attack at the Annual Town Meeting on Wednesday evening (April 7th).
Several residents questioned whether the decision was ill-advised, adding that the public funding should have been directed towards income-generating services instead.
It comes after the Town Council decided earlier this year that it would give a £50,000 lifeline to the seafront centre to keep it open for the summer season after cash-strapped Sedgemoor District Council said it could no longer afford to run it.
“The £50,000 should have been invested in a service that will create revenue, such as a traffic warden in Burnham, rather than a loss-making tourist centre” argued Burnham resident Tony Lynham at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The Tourist Information Centre is not a going concern and the money should have spent more wisely. Now, the funding is irretrievable – we can’t possibly get it back.”
However, Mayor Derick Cooper defended the council’s decision.
“The £50,000 has given us some breathing space while a working party searches for a new group to take it over. We wanted to keep the centre open this summer until someone is found to take it over for the long-term.”
Cllr Chris Williams added that the council’s decision to spend the £50,000 had not been taken lightly.
“We had a very good debate at the time and the £50,000 option was not the only one on the table,” he said. “We considered several routes forward, so it wasn’t a snap decision.”
Burnham resident Alex Turco also questioned town councillors about their control of the funding now that it has been diverted towards the centre.
“If I were putting £50,000 into a loss-making business formerly run by the district council, I would want two votes to their one on how the money is spent,” he said.
“Just handing over the money without any control on how it gets spent seems to me to be a poor way of spending it.”
Cllr Neville Jones stressed that if the money had not been supplied, “the Tourist Information Centre would have closed at the end of March.”
He added that the working party which has been set up to find a long-term solution for the property has “three choices in front of it”.
Pictured is Cllr Neville Jones outside Burnham’s Tourist Information Centre