Gamble may not pay off

What is a town council?

Friday, 13th April 2018, 9:00 am

Well, it is, under the Local Government Act 1972, in reality only a parish council which has itself decided, perhaps because it believes that the title sounds more impressive, to call itself a town council.

Nevertheless, it is still a parish council, limited to the same powers, duties and status of a parish council. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thus the headline, Castlegate unit bought by council (Berwick Advertiser, March 22), causes me great concern for it indicates that perhaps some of our parish – oops, sorry – town councillors are of a mind similar to that of some of the worthies of 19th century Austro-Hungarian towns who spent the people’s hard-earned taxes and other moneys on untested, speculative expenditures without any reference to, or agreement of, the people whatsoever.

True, the siting of Berwick’s current county council’s apology of a Tourist Information Centre is a laugh when compared with many others in the UK.

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But that is no excuse for Berwick’s parish councillors, no matter how suiting the ‘Castlegate unit’ might be, to, unless each councillor is willing to assume personal responsibility, ignore the experiences of, for instance, the now insolvent Carillion company, and perhaps also of Northumberland County Council’s pre-reformed, money-borrowing sidekick Arch, and incur debt on unsubstantiated, speculative ventures.

Perhaps they believe that if the venture does not work out some other spin of the business roulette board will come to their, and their council taxpayers’, rescue.

True, I own a business which owns and rents out properties, but I have no interest in, nor do I want any interest in, this piece of parish council speculation.

It is a speculation which reminds me of The Maltings, which 20-plus years ago started off as a small financial gamble, but not only turned into a huge financial loss, it also caused the destruction of Berwick’s Playhouse, a 700-seater theatre whose technical facilities were far greater than The Maltings’ can ever be.

Finally, to quote Coun Bettison, “the parish council paid £10,000 for a feasibility study” in respect of the intended quayside pontoon, (Berwick Advertiser, April 5).

This is a huge amount of taxpayers’ money, Coun Bettison, for you and your fellow parish councillors to burden your 12,000 residents with.

Needless to say, the parish councillors are legally protected because residents, whom they are supposed to represent, have no option but to pay the £10,000, otherwise the unfortunate residents will find themselves queuing up to make appearances before the magistrates’ court.

Ah, well... so much for democracy.

Ted Loveday

Berwick-upon-Tweed