Society ‘not hopeful’ about visitor centre survival – stressing that cuts proposals need effective consultation

Chesterfield and District Civic Society is not hopeful that the town’s popular visitor and information centre (VIC) will survive and wants to see further consultation on forthcoming budget cuts proposals.

In November Chesterfield Borough Council announced that, as part of work to produce a balanced budget, they were looking to hold a ‘conversation’ with the public on how they would achieve the necessary savings. The Society contributed extensively to the council’s online conversation document – including calling for an effective replacement for the current VIC – at least an information point in Chesterfield Library – but favouring its retention.

Says society chairman Howard Borrell; ‘The council advised they would be offering up their proposals for consideration, but this hasn’t yet happened. We want to see further consultation on savings packages.’

‘It has been suggested that the services of the VIC could be provided by “digital delivery”; but we would dispute the viability and effectiveness of that proposal. How, for example, would publicity leaflets from local organisations about their activities be available? The council has rightly long-trumpeted the strong tourism offer that the town provides; watering down that offer must have a negative impact on the promotion of our town to locals and visitors alike.’

The Civic Society is now calling on the council to enter into dialogue with key stakeholders on what must now be worked up proposals, so that effective evaluation can take place. Financial savings will, out of necessity, have to occur but the Society feels that is important for each area of change to be examined in order to ensure that the civic good is not seriously damaged.

Apart from views on the VIC, the Society’s response to the budget conversation also included:

· The need for a rigorous understanding of capital scheme implications on revenue, with a potential cutback on schemes if they increase revenue requirements.

· The revenue and footfall implications of increasing car parking charges or removing the resident’s permit to be thoroughly understood. Increasing the use of public transport must not be forgotten.

· Costs of service withdrawal to be thoroughly understood, alongside on-costs of cessation.

· Community buildings ‘moth-balled’ must not be sold-off as they are community assets.

· No ‘fire sales of the Council’s commercial property’. Property disposed of must be subject to rigorous cost/benefit analysis.

· The council should look more closely at working with ‘partners’ to deliver enhanced or new events and information.

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