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Internal Party Pressure and Ice Rink Closure Force Withdrawal of Post-Christmas Funding for The Village

The Village in August this year. Lack of footfall has been a chronic problem.

Pressure from within the Tory group at Guildford Borough Council forced a change of tack for its policy on The Village at this evening’s (December 5, 2017) full-council meeting.

And a double whammy was suffered when it was announced that the ice-rink had closed, presumably because of insufficient custom.

The announcement caused a visible reaction of surprise and concern among councillors in the chamber. It was hoped that the ice-rink would be a major draw to the temporary retail and events park over the Christmas period.

Well-placed sources have informed The Guildford Dragon NEWS that an alternative proposal to put forward by the Executive was threatened from councillors within the Tory group. Such a move, it was feared, could have led to an embarrassing defeat that would reflect on the council leader who himself had been out of step with the rest of his Executive by abstaining on the issue at its last meeting.

During the debate, councillors lined up to thank the council officers for all their efforts to make the project a success, but the Executive’s motion was to withdraw £225,000 from the budget required to operate The Village from March next year onwards. Instead, a third-party operator is to be sought so that there will be no further cost to the taxpayer and other temporary uses for the site considered.

Cllr Tony Rooth.

There was sharp, verbal sniping from some on the Executive at Cllr Tony Rooth (Con, The Pilgrims) who has led the attack against further funding of The Village venture. In his criticisms he was able to draw on his personal observations as a regular Village visitor.

Cllr Michael Illman (Con, Shalford) reminded the council that some traders had made a success of their Village businesses and closure could affect their livelihoods.

But the debate at times got personal, and although they did not name Tony Rooth, some comments from Cllrs Furniss (Con, Christchurch) Bilbe (Con, Normandy) and Illman, claiming those critical of The Village were following their own agendas were clearly, in part at least, aimed at him. It is no secret that bad blood exists between council leader Spooner, deputy leader Furniss and Tony Rooth, since Rooth was sacked from the Executive in May this year.

Some councillors are now understood to be concerned that further spending could be undertaken under delegated powers, without further reference to the members, and say they intend to watch closely.

One said: “I’m very concerned the ice rink had become the most expensive in Western Europe, per square metre. Further funding is now impossible in light of the wider financial situation.” Then hinting at the bitterness that appears to exist between some members of the Conservative group added: “This might have further political ramifications.”

The full debate is viewable on the GBC website.

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5 Responses to Internal Party Pressure and Ice Rink Closure Force Withdrawal of Post-Christmas Funding for The Village

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 5, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Have some of the Tory councillors outside the Executive finally grown a spine?

    Can we expect them now to divert their attention to that much more pressing issue, the discredited Local Plan?

  2. Johanna Lunn Reply

    December 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

    This morning it was announced that, according to Shelter, 128,000 children will wake up homeless on Christmas Day. To think that GBC wasted, there is no other word for it, over £1,000,000 pounds on an ego trip is utterly shameful. What a disgrace.

    Thank goodness the full council saw sense when the Executive ignored the findings of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

  3. Wayne Smith Reply

    December 6, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Having just viewed the webcast of last night’s meeting, how disappointing to see the rather condescending attitudes displayed by Cllrs Bilbe and Furniss to the other councillors willing to voice a different opinion.

    Even yesterday evening, after the surprising news that the ice rink had closed after only a few weeks operation, Cllr. Furniss still said that the Village was “an exciting place” and basically blamed the people of Guildford for not supporting independent retailers.

    So well done Cllr Rooth and the others that were willing to speak up on this issue and voice what many people in Guildford have been saying for a long time.

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    December 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    The “Pop-up Village” [as it was initially called] could have been a good idea, but only if a suitable site in the town centre had been available.

    However, it was poorly executed, on an unsuitable site, poorly promoted (signage was abysmal from the Bus Station, Railway Station, the High Street and North Street) and as a result, it was doomed to fail.

    It has been a massive drain on council funds and a waste of taxpayer’s money that will not be recouped by the council. I’ll bet that not a single councillor or council official will be held to account.

    Had this been a private commercial venture by a private company, those responsible would be sacked.

  5. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    December 6, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    The Village was a vanity project that was doomed to fail. It could have been so good if we’d been offered unique outlets, as we were promised.

    Instead, unfortunately, due to GBC’s lack of business acumen, it was an embarrassment that has cost Council Tax payers a lot of money.

    Last year we had dodgems, this year we had the most expensive skating rink in the country. How very tacky.

    Considering a large number of rough sleepers we now appear to have in Guildford maybe these containers could be put to a better use?

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