Town centre car boot plan labelled “crazy”

THE centre of one of Suffolk’s premier tourist towns could be given over to giant car boot sales as part of a council’s drive to save cash.

The idea of holding car boot sales on the St Andrew’s Street South car park is just one of a number of proposals to boost St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s income by �264,800 in order to freeze next year’s council tax.

Other ideas put forward by the council include imposing parking fees at West Stow, selling an ice cream and car wash franchise at the Cattle Market/Arc car park, selling advertising space in council car parks and installing motor home bays at Ram Meadow.

The council said it had to look at making its assets pay for the benefit of borough residents.

However, the idea of holding regular car boot sales at the St Andrews Street car park was yesterday labelled “crazy” by some in the town.

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Independent councillor Trevor Beckwith said he would be making inquiries of the council to find out more about its car boot proposals.

“When would they do it and how would it stack up with the council trying to keep car travel to a minimum? It is crazy.”

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Fellow independent David Nettleton said he was not in favour of the boot sale idea though added: “Desperate times bring desperate measures. I am really interested in when they are planning to do this. I will be chasing this up.”

Ruth Brady, manager at the Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce, said members had voiced a mixed reaction to the idea.

She said they backed the car boot sale proposal, others had voiced concerns.

Andrew Denny, managing director of Fix-a-Form in Bury, said: “We have very mixed feelings about this idea. We admire the council’s lateral thinking but doubt it would generate much money.

“It would bring new visitors into the Bury St Edmunds on a Sunday, who might then spend money in the town, but is unlikely to add to the general character of the area.

“Car boot sales already exist and fundamentally the council should not be competing against private enterprise.

“It would set an interesting precedent because I doubt whether planning permission would be granted if this was private land.”

Council leader John Griffiths said: “This is a time to help the residents as much as we can. I think this is a very responsible budget because despite the very significant cut in our grant we will be freezing council tax and maintaining our front line services.

“It is not easy. In fact it is very tough and we have done this mostly by sharing services with other councils, by cutting posts, by buying more effectively and by trying to generate more income.

“We are looking at all kinds of opportunities to both improve serivces and to generate income for our taxpayers.”

In her report to the council, finance chief Liz Watts said: “The borough council is financially secure as a result of many years of prudent financial management.”

However, she said the the next two years would herald a 30% drop in its grant from the Government from �7million this year to just �4.5million by 2012.

Next year’s total budget is expected to be �12.1million compared with the �13.6million budget this year.

Ms Watts said: “In order to respond to the very significant Government grant cut, the borough council has had to make significant savings.”

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