NORTHUMBERLAND Tourism has been accused of forcing charges on businesses to make up for their funding cuts without discussing the plans properly.
The dissolution of One North East means an important funding stream is being cut and by March 31 they will be left with very limited public funding.
Details drawn up following a meeting attended by 56 businesses last week would involve tourism businesses being charged between £200 and £700 annual membership for a business club. It is hoped that businesses from across the industry would work together to boost the profile of Northumberland and provide a benefit to all members and that a business-led organisation would also potentially open up opportunities for accessing new funding.
But Bruce Hewison, chairman of the Alnwick Tourism Association, has said that the scheme has been forced upon them and he believes that, despite Northumberland Tourism saying the money would not go on staffing wages, the fees will be used to make up their shortfall.
“This has just been landed on us. We cannot just support it blindly, there hasn’t been time to discuss it,” he said.
“We need to know that Northumberland Tourism is supporting businesses. There’s a lot to talk about and there’s no use Northumberland Tourism dismissing the need to meet and hold discussions.”
Giles Ingram, chief executive of Northumberland Tourism, said that the timetable had really been set by the funding cuts from Government but that discussion had been ongoing since November.
“There has been a lot of discussion and debate which is really beginning to focus down on on how do we ensure that Northumberland continues to be marketed,” he said.
“Businesses are telling us that marketing is a priority.
“They want to have cost-effective marketing and there’s a widely-held view that working through Northumberland Tourism is the best way to continue.”
He added: “We are making progress and timescales are short, but there will be marketing provided from April 1, it’s not going to stop.”
Mr Hewison, who owns West Acre House bed and breakfast in Alnwick, organised a meeting to discuss the issue at the Queen’s Head Hotel in Morpeth on Monday night. And he has now contacted committee members from the Alnwick Tourism Association, which has 130 businesses as members, to discuss the way forward, highlighting the need to gather a consensus from their members.
Businesses are being invited by Northumberland Tourism to use an online forum at http://discuss.ntads.co.uk to share their views and concerns before a plan is set in place for April 1.