A leading member of Berwick’s tourism forum has refuted suggestions that the Portas town team was axed so its projects could proceed.
Graham Head was responding to concerns raised by Portas bid author Andrew Marshall about the interim town team’s decision to allocate up to £70,000 to Lowry marketing, station signage and a community garden on the former playhouse site.
Mr Marshall accused county council officers and Arch, via the tourism forum, of directing Portas money into the hands of Northumbrian Tourism on which they are board members.
However, Mr Head responded: “Mr Marshall paints a picture of NCC/Arch deliberately dismantling the Portas town team in order to siphon money into “pre-identified projects of the tourism forum. This is not the case. Mr Marshall should have checked his facts and dates before voicing his opinions.”
He says an email from town team director Chris Hardie sent on September 5 - a month before the Arch/NCC email exchanges cited by Mr Marshall - confirms that a proper process was conducted between the tourism forum and the Portas town team.
Mr Head, in an Opinion column on page 23, adds: “I find Mr Marshall’s comments mischievous and unhelpful. Talk is cheap - achieving practical results more hard won. I believe that playing politics is exactly that – playing.
“I believe that gnawing on the bones of conspiracy theories is unproductive and that Mr Marshall should retract his allegations of Portas funding malpractice, find another outlet for playing politics and leave people who believe in getting things done for the good of Berwick to get on with the job.”
He has also defended the role of the tourism forum, a consortium of voluntary organisations, local businesses, town councillors and public sector/NGO officers, drawn together by Berwick Town Council to focus on attracting more visitors to Berwick.
“The widely drawn group is focused on getting things done that will benefit Berwick’s visitor economy,” said Mr Head.