Don't know exactly who will move

I AM compelled to write to you following the coverage of two council related stories in your paper last week. I think it is only fair that your readers have a balanced version of events on which to base their opinions of North Somerset Council. Firstly,

I AM compelled to write to you following the coverage of two council related stories in your paper last week. I think it is only fair that your readers have a balanced version of events on which to base their opinions of North Somerset Council.

Firstly, the coverage of the story about the council's office amalgamation programme.

Your headline quotes a figure of 700 jobs leaving Weston for Clevedon, and the simple fact is that at this stage we don't know exactly who will move to Clevedon, should the purchase go ahead, or where from. The intention of the acquisition is to reduce the number of expensive, leased, smaller offices, not to move people unnecessarily. If councillors agree to proceed with the acquisition of the former Clerical Medical offices next month, there will then be thorough analysis carried out to decide which services should be based in Weston and which in Clevedon.

And as I have stated previously, the council will continue to be based in the centre of Weston and maintain its main administrative premises at the Town Hall.

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It makes good financial sense for the council to consolidate operations into a smaller number of buildings. It will reduce overheads, allow us to work more closely with other partners, bring services together and enable us to work more efficiently and effectively and help us to provide services throughout North Somerset. On the issue of finances, the acquisition of the site will allow the council to begin saving money on premises costs associated with the move within four years.

I note with interest that your reporters quizzed the 18 Weston Conservative councillors for their views on the proposals, but failed to contact the six local members who represent other political parties. Perhaps you felt that their views don't count, or that your readers wouldn't be interested in what they had to say. That's hardly providing political balance though, I would suggest.

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I also cannot help but smile at your coverage of this story in your sister paper in the north of the district. It's interesting that your Weston based paper is able to quote a number of jobs affected by the moves, and yet North Somerset Times says: "the council does not yet know how many staff will be moved..."

Another story which I must comment on is your coverage of the changes being proposed in adult care at Poppyfields. I realise this is a very emotive issue, and I empathise entirely with anyone who is facing this stage in life. However, the simple fact is that by re-providing the care currently offered at Poppyfields in other premises locally - at an equal or better standard of care - we will save �600,000 which can be reinvested to provide care to a growing number of adults who need our support.

Public finances are going to get worse before they get better, and whichever party is in Government following next year's general election, one thing we can be sure of is that there will be less money to spend on public services in North Somerset than there is now. That's why we are continually looking for ways to provide services in the most cost effective way while offering local people a good standard of service.


Leader of North Council

Town Hall, Weston

EDITOR'S NOTE: Job figures used by the Mercury were revealed by North Somerset Council itself through its answer to a Freedom of Information request.

At present, the council employs 695 people at Weston Town Hall, 762 people at other Weston buildings and 121 people at separate locations around the district.

It seems odd to us that Cllr Ashton would suggest the council extend its budget to buy a 1,000-capacity office block (and seek to dispose of its peripheral premises) without deciding who it would locate there.

The figure of 700 Weston jobs was confirmed - without prompt - by one of Cllr Ashton's own Conservative members.

And in response to Cllr Ashton's query about why we interviewed only Weston's Tory members: The Conservative Party holds a clear majority on North Somerset Council. If all Tories vote in favour of the relocation, it will go ahead regardless of opposition members' views.

That's why it was Weston's Conservatives who we urged to 'put aside their party allegiance' and 'save Weston from a catastrophic blow'.

* We also stand by our Poppyfields report, and ask: How can Cllr Ashton back up his claim that abandoning the dementia specialist Poppyfields development in favour of the non-specialist Diamond Court represents 'equal or better standard of care'?

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