Not a slur on town’s history

THERE has been coverage in the Gazette about Alnwick Town Council’s decision not to take on ownership of the Harry Hotspur statue, including a quote from me at the council meeting where that decision was made. I’d like to clarify my position on this and put the comment I made into the wider context of what else I said that evening.

As a result of Alnwick Community Development Trust going into administration we were asked to vote on whether to take on responsibility for a number of assets, including the Harry Hotspur statue. Questions were asked about the need for and costs of insurance, future maintenance and the monitoring of the CCTV system currently in place. No definitive answers could be given on any of these issues.

Also on the agenda was a discussion on services, currently delivered and paid for by Northumberland County Council, but likely to be transferred to Alnwick Town Council next year. This includes provision and maintenance of bus shelters, seats and litter bins.

When we take on these responsibilities, we are required to fund them from our own budget. Also services provided by Northumberland County Council including grass-cutting and floral planting will be more expensive from next year if provided at the current level.

The floral planting alone is estimated to cost nearly £12,000 extra. There are huge implications to all of this that mean difficult decisions to take over our budget and the precept (the amount added to the council tax that provides a budget for the town council to carry out its duties).

Incurring new costs is likely to mean raising the precept or cutting existing expenditure – or both.

I referred to this when asking other councillors to consider the possible views of local taxpayers.

My comment was not about whether local people want the statue – it was raising a question about whether they would prioritise it among all the other local services and projects they are funding as taxpayers.

I felt I had a responsibility to raise this concern at a time when costs are increasing, taxes could be rising and we may have to consider reducing funding or services in the future.

We were asked to adopt or reject. I voted against taking it on because the cost implications were unknown at a time when we could be asking local taxpayers to pay more in their council tax or cut funding to other projects.

My decision was not a personal slur on the statue, or a disregard for the history of Alnwick. Instead, it felt like the most responsible thing to do in light of so much uncertainty.

Coun Rachael Roberts,

Swansfield Park Road,

Alnwick