Alan Castle - Cuts in tourism make little sense

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FARMING is no longer the main earner for this part of the world as it once was, along with coal in the southern half of our district.

More and more, we have to rely on tourism. We are told that it brings billions to the North East and therefore millions to this area in the form of visitors who spend their cash.

Increasing numbers are employed by the tourist industry. They are by no means in high-paid jobs but at least they are in jobs. Jobs which for many are a life-saver in this present economic climate.

But in recent days, the success of that industry has been under threat. One Northeast is doomed, along with a huge budget that it controlled and channelled partly into promoting this part of the world.

We are not world famous, we are not a Lake District, we have not got outstanding mountains but we have got something that people want to experience. It’s called peace and tranquillity.

Last year, there was an unexplained drop in those figures. If the area cannot be promoted nationally and internationally then those figures will start to decline faster and faster.

We have to rely on places like Alnwick, Bamburgh and others, the castles, the gardens, including Alnwick, Cragside and Wallington, the unspoiled beauty of the Northumberland coastline, the Farne Islands, Holy Island, its historic connections and the grandeur of our hills and moorland.

But some of those are also under threat.

The Garden has been losing money hence the decision to close it during the winter and only open at weekends with free admission, hoping, I suppose, to pick up some cash on shop sales and refreshments. We were told 40 jobs went there.

Our forestries are popular with thousands of walkers and mountain bikers but the government has plans under consideration to sell them off to private concerns. Will they still remain open, will the right to roam still be enjoyed if they are private property?

Then we come to the crazy decision to close two information centers within the National Park, both of which I have used and both have been extremely helpful.

The cuts by the National Park Authority mean that 18 jobs will go and, added to that, monitoring and maintenance of the 1,000km of rights of way, including two national trails and long-distance routes will be cut back.

The reason is the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has cut its grant by £1million a year for the next four years alongside a 4.5 per cent cut imposed in this financial year.

Both the Forestry Commission and Defra are Government departments and the speculation and news comes in the same week that we learn that Prime Minister David Cameron has been asking business leaders to find hundreds of more jobs.

Where does joined-up thinking come in this case. We have no heavy industry, our service industries are small with low numbers employed and tourism is our lifeline. If we cannot sell it, people will not come.

Add the decision of Alnmaritec to pull out of Alnwick and head for the sea at Blyth then job losses and opportunities are gently disappearing over the horizon in this part of the world.

FINALLY I thought this news item I spotted might be of interest to our council leaders living in cloud cuckoo land in County Hall when they are discussing council cuts.

Two neighbouring councils in the south have announced plans to scrap their magazines to save a total of £100,000. Worthing Borough Council is axing its Vibe magazine, which has been published three times a year since 2007, while Adur District Council will no longer produce Adur Outlook.

The 13th and final edition of Vibe will be published next month because the council says it can no longer afford it, after its government grant was reduced by £1.13million for 2011-2013.

We are told Northumberland has a black hole of over £60million. Time to axe Northumberland News. our council magazine costing £220,000 now.