Council pilloried on Portas windfall

Ledbury Reporter: Council pilloried on Portas windfall Council pilloried on Portas windfall

LEDBURY Town Council has been asked why it is ‘sitting’ on £10,000 of money from the Mary Portas fund.

The town received the money as a consolation for missing out on a regeneration scheme backed by the “Queen of Shops” but so far, none of it has been spent. Ann Beard, director of the new Wiggles fitness company in the Homend Mews, raised the question at a town council meeting and said: “It’s taken quite a lot of delving to find out if we did or did not have any funding.

“What is it being used for and what is the chance for people to apply for new business ventures in Ledbury to help small businesses start up? Ledbury deserves the opportunity to have this chance.

“If the money is used for new businesses it will promote the town, create jobs and Ledbury will be moving in the right direction.”

Coun Liz Harvey said two initial ideas for the money was to set up a Youth Cafe or a Skills Swop Shop, but other ideas might be forthcoming from the outcome of the town plan consultation.

Coun Harvey, chairman of the town plan steering group, which has members of the bids team, said: “The sensible idea is to see what plans come back from the consultation.”

Mrs Beard said: “You’ve had this money for 12 months, before the town plan came into view, and if you wait now it could be another 12 months before you decide what to do with it.”

In other towns and cities, such as Worcester, the Mary Portas money has been used to pay the business rates of some new businesses for one year.

But the decision for the Ledbury money lies not with the town council, but the bids team.

Ledbury Mayor Terry Widdows said: “The money was given to the town council for safe keeping. It is not for us to dish it out.

We actually received the money on October 1 this year. I know it was awarded a while ago, but there were problems bringing it back in.”

Coun Harvey said the Ledbury Area Development Trust had been asked to help with reviewing proposals that offered “community- wide advantages – ones that did not necessarily only benefit a few businesses or individuals”.

She said: “We are constrained to a degree as to what we are going to use the money for.” Speaking after the meeting, town clerk Karen Mitchell confirmed the sum of £10,000 was in the town council's bank account but it did not form part of the town council’s budget.

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