Power games

AS a former St Ives town councillor, I wish to express my dismay at the way the council has handled the Corn Exchange issue – or rather not handled it. It has been a disgrace and it demonstrates that some councillors are more concerned with wielding power

AS a former St Ives town councillor, I wish to express my dismay at the way the council has handled the Corn Exchange issue - or rather not handled it. It has been a disgrace and it demonstrates that some councillors are more concerned with wielding power than representing the public.

About six years ago, at a public meeting, every one of those attending supported the re-opening of the Corn Exchange as a public venue. As a result, the town council allocated funds towards the project, which I and the majority of councillors supported.

Over the years the council has continued to tax the people of St Ives on the basis of this allocation being part of the precept. It is disgraceful that the council is now threatening not to use this money for this purpose.

Although the council has spent years looking at the issue, it has done very little: it has played with the project. By comparison, ACE has shown what can be achieved in a short time, which puts the council's efforts to shame.

This issue raises the question of what a town council is for and the role of councillors. In my opinion it is simple. The council should provide services and facilities that the townspeople need and want. It is the councillor's job to represent those views and ensure that council decisions reflect these views, regardless of political persuasion.

The council has statutory responsibilities for things such as parks and cemeteries. However, a good council should ensure that the community is thriving socially and economically. It is not good enough just to issue small grants to local organisations in the hope that they will provide these other services.

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St Ives Town Council has shown no imagination in enhancing the facilities of the town, and its approach has been to avoid financial commitment. The Corn Exchange was built with public money, and St Ives should preserve this heritage. Being at the heart of the community, a rejuvenated Corn Exchange could help enliven the town centre and provide a much-needed focal point for the cultural activities in the town.

It is easy for councillors to say that they must look after public money and that they have been looking at this difficult issue in depth. It is not easy for them to ignore overwhelming public opinion.

None of the current councillors was elected on this issue. If they are so confident that the majority of St Ivians do not want the public's money spent on the Corn Exchange then they should put that issue to a public vote.

Just for once it would be good to see town councillors doing something for the town rather than their egos.

I expect that my opinion may be dismissed as political points-scoring, as I am a Liberal Democrat. However, I write as a concerned individual and will not be attempting to stand for the council in the near future.

JOHN SOUTER, The Green, Woodwalton

* THE turn of events that has led to St Ives Town Council informing Action Corn Exchange (ACE) at this very late stage that a trust established to run the Corn Exchange could be denied access to the funds already set aside by the council for its repair and refurbishment has an unpleasant smell of sour grapes about it.

I have five questions for the town council:

- What is the technicality upon which its assessment is based?

- When was this technicality enacted in Local Government procedures/law?

- If it was prior to the autumn 2006 establishment of the ACE feasibility study, why was this information not made public at that time?

- If the factors leading to the risk that funds will not be available to a trust were established, but have only recently come to the attention of the town council, how does it respond to a charge of weak and ineffectual administration?

- In the hope that a final decision on the future of the Corn Exchange can be made with full and detailed consideration of all the relevant facts and details, can the town council seek to regain a level of trust from St Ivians by re-stating fully the pros and cons of the argument as they see it?

What a shame there are no local elections in St Ives this May.

DENIS BALDRY, Rookery Close, St Ives

* INDIVIDUALS and institutions across St Ives have seen their wish to restore the town's Corn Exchange to a viable public hall given a voice through the efforts of ACE.

I'm sure the town council must also be delighted that it has such a professional group willing to work with it to achieve such a strongly-supported goal. The exciting but realistic plans put forward by ACE for this historic building show imagination coupled with real-world economics. In particular, I applaud the strong theme running through their proposal of creating a town centre venue for local community activity, such as drama, exhibitions, markets etc.

Because of this, I am firmly of the opinion that the money (approx £500,000), sensibly accumulated by the council, should be used towards the restoration project - it would be a sound investment in the future of the town centre.

ALAN BURT, Needingworth Road, St Ives

* I THINK they should use the remaining Corn Exchange reserve to reopen the Corn Exchange by gifting it to the ACE trust when comes into existence.

If this is difficult to do legally, they should get a friendly expert lawyer to do the necessary, pro bono and make it legal. It sounds like an excuse to quote the law as an insurmountable obstacle. If the spirit were willing, a way would be found to let the money do what it was always intended for.

JAN KANEEN, Care Network Hunts community development officer, St Ives Road


* WE believe that St Ives Town Council should continue to put aside funding for the Corn Exchange with the plan to re-open it for the benefit of the community. A thriving community needs a centre for all types of events in the centre of the town.

BILL and JUNE ANDERSON, Gore Tree Road, Hemingford Grey