A commitment to Weston's future?

PUBLISHED: 06:49 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:38 25 May 2010

A WEEK ago, North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton moved to quash allegations his executive is 'anti-Weston' after it voted to move hundreds of jobs out of the town.

A WEEK ago, North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton moved to quash allegations his executive is 'anti-Weston' after it voted to move hundreds of jobs out of the town.

To prove the authority's commitment to Weston, he listed all the places in the town where council workers continue to work... a list that included "sports centres, the Winter Gardens, Playhouse, Museum... and Tourist Information Centre".

Well, let's look at that in a bit more detail, shall we?

The Tourist Information Centre: Council papers show the council wants to transfer the TIC to 'a third party' inside two years. A private firm? Probably.

Sports centres: Churchill is being offloaded as a 'leisure management contract', and discussions are already underway with Wyvern, Clevedon and Gordano 'to agree future management arrangements without direct involvement (or financial support) from the council'. So, no council jobs there, then.

The Playhouse and Winter Gardens: Tenders are being encouraged for both sites, as the council seeks to enlist a private sector firm to take over these assets on a 'minimum' 10-year contract. No good news for council workers there, either.

And of course, the Museum: It's closing.

After the promises and reassurances, action plans and new ideas, council bosses are plotting to do away with it.

'Close down and dispose of the Burlington Street site' says their report into 'desirable outcomes' for facilities.

They want to replace the museum with a touring exhibition and a small-scale 'visitor attraction' while the rest of the exhibits are hidden away in storage.

Historian Howard Smith this week said: "It is unimaginable that our part of Somerset is to have no place of community record or historical resource.

"Surely, as a community, we have a responsibility to our past and to our future?"

We do - and so does North Somerset Council.

Yet however hard we look, it's difficult to see any tangible commitment to Weston's future in the actions of a body which is withdrawing its jobs, offloading its attractions and 'devastating' our heritage with this short-sighted plan.

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