Hunts firms angered by council’s ‘unimaginative’ cuts plans

HUNTINGDONSHIRE business leaders have torn into cuts proposed by their district council, describing them as “unhelpful and lacking imagination”.

The district’s branch of the Federation of Small Businesses – small and medium-sized organisations provide around 90 per cent of the district’s jobs – is particularly critical of plans to ditch closed-circuit television coverage, double car parking charges again, and withdraw funding from town centre partnerships.

FSB chairman Malcolm Lyons said: “Huntingdonshire District Council’s proposed budget cuts will not help our market towns to prosper in these difficult times.

“Mothballing the CCTV service from April 2012 means a likely increase in town-centre crime. This will not help our towns’ retailers, who find survival very difficult.

“A doubling of car park charges by 2014 will not bring footfall to the town’s businesses. We need to encourage the residents of Huntingdonshire, and beyond, to come and spend in our towns. It is especially important to keep the first two hours parking at a low price.

“Economic development is key to the success, and prosperity, of Huntingdonshire’s market towns. To withdraw funding totally from town partnerships will be a disaster for our towns, and it could put the Shopmobility scheme at risk.

“For the council to say that they will be less able to support the vibrancy of town centres, then, surely, this is what town partnerships can do – and we also need public conveniences in the towns.”

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He said the private sector might have come up with more imaginative money-saving ideas.

“The private sector might suggest leasing half of Pathfinder House [HDC’s headquarters in Huntingdon], contracting out services such as grass-cutting and gardening, and creating a business to run the leisure centres.

“Huntingdonshire District Council has a good record,” he said, “but the councillors must look again at the cuts. We do wish to maintain a vibrant Huntingdonshire.”

Terry Parker, HDC director of commerce and technology, said; “The council is facing a substantial and immediate financial challenge. While the proposals, shortly to be considered by cabinet, are demanding and challenging, we should bear in mind that we are not alone in having to do this.

“We welcome all comments made by interested parties, which will help members decide how to live within our reduced means.”