Council defends £40k combined spend on FolkWeek, Hopper Bus and gulls
- Credit: Archant
Public cash splashed on Sidmouth’s biggest week of the year and a popular transport link is well spent because the resort is a ‘one-industry’ town - and bringing in tourists costs money.
That was the answer when the town council was asked by one if its members how many residents benefit from the Hopper Bus or attend FolkWeek.
Councillor David Addis, who posed the question, was calling for the council to make savings to the ratepayer - but his colleagues defended the funding allocations and said they keep the resort vibrant.
The authority’s precept – its share of residents’ overall council tax bills – was set to increase by 3.4 per cent, but £20,000 was taken from a reserve for the Manor Pavilion to cut that to 1.4 per cent.
Speaking at last week’s budget meeting, Cllr Addis said: “We are a quality council. For five years, every year we have increased the precept to cover some fairly large additions to our budget.
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“To get this [council tax bill] dropping through their doors will be a bit of a shock. They think:‘Can I really afford this?’”
He said there were savings that could be made on things that he felt only benefit tourists and not the people of the Sid Valley - singling out the £8,000 allocation for the Hopper Bus, the £30,000 contribution to FolkWeek and £2,500 for seagull management.
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“What does that do for our ratepayers?” asked Cllr Addis.
Cllr Simon Pollentine, the tourism and economy committee chairman, disagreed. He said: “We aren’t Port Talbot, but we are basically a one-industry town. Tourism runs through Sidmouth.
“Of course people go to FolkWeek and use the Hopper Bus.
“These budget lines are reasonable – each and every one of them reflects our dedication to improve the tourism industry, which underpins the vibrancy of this town.”
The council voted to increase its seagull management budget from £450 to £2,500 in 2016/17. It also pledged £30,000 towards FolkWeek once again and set aside £6,000 as a contingency for a Red Arrows display.
To prevent a bigger increase in its budget, members agreed to take £20,000 from a £50,000 reserve for the Manor Pavilion – money put aside in the case the council took it over from the district authority.
In the past, Sidmouth has deterred seagulls using falconry displays and even lasers to scare off the birds.
Town clerk Christopher Holland said this year the £2,500 allocation is more likely to be spent on educational leaflets, stickers and working with establishments to help persuade tourists to avoid feeding and leaving food for gulls.