Bury St Edmunds: Borough council is criticised for handling of decision to shut tourist information centre (TIC)
There was not enough consultation about the closure of the award-winning tourist information centre in Bury St Edmunds, it has been claimed, with workers there only finding out on the day it was announced to the public.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which runs the TIC in Angel Hill, has come under fire for the way it has handled telling tourism staff of the news and for the closure of the TIC being an officer decision, rather than one taken by councillors.
But Sarah Stamp, portfolio holder with responsibility for operational tourism at the borough council, strongly refuted it was an undemocratic decision and said she had wanted to manage communicating the news so a consistent message got out.
A council spokeswoman added staff were briefed on the proposals and the council was now in active consultation with them and UNISON over the changes.
Staff, some councillors and the press were told on March 25 of the plans to shut the TIC and replace it with a network of advice points. The decision was made the day before.
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Mrs Stamp, who is a Conservative councillor, said: “For me it was key staff and members were told, but it was also key we got the press release out there so there was a clear, consistent message going out rather than setting hairs running.”
Green Party councillor Julia Wakelam spoke of her concern staff at the TIC were only informed of the decision hours before the public announcement was made.
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“I find this quite shocking and disrespectful to our loyal and committed staff,” she said. “This will be a big and challenging change for them all and I feel the council should have spent more time preparing them for this.”
Last week Mrs Stamp said out of 11 staff – the equivalent of six full-time positions – the equivalent of about one full-time post may be lost.
Ms Wakelam said she understood the rationale for the decision, but questioned whether it should have been taken without debate.
Independent councillor David Nettleton said: “We as members have not been asked for our opinion. I would say why didn’t it go through Bury Area [Working Party] the other week?”
He added: “What are they going to decide to do next by delegated officer?”
Mrs Stamp said: “This was a delegated officer decision, but one which was taken following close consultation and input from me as portfolio holder, and an informal discussion with cabinet colleagues, and has been mentioned several times over quite a long period in full council, cabinet and scrutiny papers.”
She said public consultation in 2011 on the budget found 67% favoured the TIC to move to an alternative town centre location.
She described the move to a network of advice points at locations including the Apex and Moyse’s Hall Museum as an improvement to the current tourist information service in the town. The changes will come into effect from June.