March 7 2014 Latest news:
West Suffolk reporter
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Civic leaders in Haverhill have demanded the town stops being treated as Bury St Edmunds’s poor relation in an extraordinary attack on St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
Councillors Maureen Byrne (Labour) and Gordon Cox (UKIP) joined outgoing Haverhill Town Council clerk Will Austin in criticising Conservative-controlled St Edmundsbury at the authority’s meeting on Tuesday, held to approve next year’s budget.
Their complaints centred around the withdrawal of council tax support grant by St Edmundsbury, which will cost Haverhill Town Council £129,000 over the next four years, with the outspoken Haverhill contingent saying this was just the latest example of St Edmundsbury neglecting the town in favour of Bury.
Haverhill’s Conservative councillors, Anne Gower and Jeremy Farthing, defended St Edmundsbury’s record in supporting their town, while deputy leader Sara Mildway-White said the council was committed to improving Haverhill’s prospects.
But this did nor deter Mr Austin, who leaves his post next month and fulfilled his promise to councillors of “going out with a bang”.
He said: “You spend £1.3million on The Apex, but have withdrawn funding from the arts centre in Haverhill. Your main offices are here in Bury, so the bulk of the £19m you spend on employees and premises goes into the Bury economy.
“Seventy-five percent of what you spend on parks goes on Abbey Gardens and Nowton Park – in Bury. You’ve spent £300,000 on Moyse’s Hall museum, but you’ve taken away your only funding for heritage for Haverhill – a measly £5,000 for the local history group.
“You spend four times as much on shopmobility in Bury as you do in Haverhill. You pay £80,000 for Bury Festival, but nothing for festivals in Haverhill.
“Haverhill has three quarters the population of Bury, and it won’t be long before it’s as big as Bury. There’s a huge imbalance in your spending priorities, and restoring the council tax support grant – albeit a drop in the ocean in repairing that balance – will at least be a sign you care about Haverhill.
“At the moment, you seem to be taking money from towns and parishes simply to spend in Bury.”
Mrs Mildmay White said she was “sorry” to hear Mr Austin’s comments and that St Edmundsbury “endeavoured to work closely” with the town council to “bring benefits to Haverhill”, including building new homes to boost the money it receives from council tax.
Among the projects mentioned to reflect St Edmundsbury’s commitment to the town were the Ehringshausen Way leisure complex, ONE Haverhill – which receives £50,000 from St Edmundsbury for community projects – and the £100m Haverhill Research Park, for which St Edmundsbury secured a £4m kick-start loan from the area’s local enterprise partnerships in 2012.
Mr Farthing added: “I’m of the opinion that this council does do a lot for Haverhill. I’m very proud to have been instrumental in the investment of millions and millions of pounds in Haverhill.
“It might seem as if we are nitpicking as this point, but we have to look after our own budgets.”