Overridden and marginalised in North v South row

PUBLISHED: 06:36 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:34 25 May 2010

RARELY, if ever, have Weston's key movers been so united in opposition to a single idea – yet this week, the great and the good of our town seem uniformly against North Somerset Council's bid to rush through an exodus of jobs to Clevedon.

RARELY, if ever, have Weston's key movers been so united in opposition to a single idea - yet this week, the great and the good of our town seem uniformly against North Somerset Council's bid to rush through an exodus of jobs to Clevedon.

The unitary authority is today (Thursday) due to make a decision on its plan to export hundreds of jobs from Weston to the former Clerical Medical office building, at a public cost of around £14.6million.

This may be a good idea. But it may not.

The truth is that we don't know - and nor do the people who are expected to make the decision, because council leaders have kept their cards so close to their chest.

They continue to insist they don't know which jobs and departments will move. Or when. Or how.

There are so many grey areas, that key town people - including our MP John Penrose, our own town council, a variety of business leaders and even council workers and members of the public - say it's impossible to judge the merits of this idea.

To a man, they want the council to come clean and reveal its full business plan.

If council leaders don't do so, not only will it be impossible for councillors to make an informed decision, there's a danger this issue could cause an irrevocable split in our council.

Not along party lines, for that would be nothing new - but a North v South divide, with Weston's councillors telling us they feel increasingly overridden and marginalised by the north-based elite.

After all, they are being forced to make a decision on a move which could devastate Weston to boost Clevedon, without being entrusted with the necessary detail.

They, like residents, feel that Weston gets a bum deal. They point to the example of car parking, where Weston recently shouldered a significant price hike - while car parks in Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead remain free.

Council officers recently reported - privately - that introducing Weston-style charges to these areas could net the council £150,000 a year (more than double the projected savings of this office move) but the idea was dismissed. Why?

Weston is North Somerset's major town. It has the biggest population, the most unemployment, and is earmarked for the biggest expansion (which begs the question - if Clevedon takes Weston's jobs, will it also accept the thousands of new houses planned for Weston too?).

How, therefore, can the council justify bleeding the town of hundreds of jobs?

And why, if the plan is sound, won't they share the details, or take the time to work them out properly?

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