Newton Abbot Tories are getting their knickers in a twist over regeneration – they think it is morally wrong – and they are also upset that a long-term loan is actually… err… long term.
In a move which seems out of step with the Tory District and County Councils and the national Coalition government – which is belatedly aiming to kick-start the economy after all the damaging talk of debt and the cuts – a Tory contingent of Newton Abbot is banging on about a loan to redevelop part of the entry to the town.
The issue surrounds the idea to improve the walk along the River Lemon from Cricketfield car park into the town centre, an area of the town know as Victoria Gardens.
“We’ll still be paying back the 40 year loan in 40 years!” bleats the Tory Stop The Debt campaign.
But according to Lib Dem mayor Cllr Anne Fry of the town council, the length of the loan has yet to be decided – it could be 25 years or it could be 40 years. And the repayment being called ‘favourable’ at around 4% from the government’s own Public Works Loan Board.
Anne told Matt Woodley on BBC Radio Devon’s Good Morning Devon [Thursday, September 20] (it’s around 1hr 40min into the broadcast and you’ve got until Thursday, September 27 to listen in) that it is important to carry on competing to attract people to shop in Newton Abbot in these difficult times, and that the project would benefit local companies as well as traders and the whole community.
When faced with Tory stooge Lizzie Shepherd, who complained there had been no mention of the price tag during the public consultation, Anne said that an initial, larger project of £450,000 was being widely reported. “We didn’t have any adverse comments at that time,” she said.
But let’s hear from Lizzie Shepherd’s fiance Newton Abbot Tory Councillor Neil Wilson, who is banging the drum big time for this campaign (it’s in the same radio show about 41 minutes in).
Neil pulls in tired terms about ‘damaging debt’ and ‘the council’s credit card’, and huffs that the regeneration of the town ‘is fundamentally unfair’.
There are cheaper way to give the gardens a facelift he says, citing section 106 money [?], or by making it community project and community garden, within an existing budget – Neil has offered to use his time, his effort and his money (which we’re hoping would stretch to more than a few chrysanthemums and a garden gnome).
And why shouldn’t Newton Abbot take advantage of a government loan at an attractive rate to regenerate communities? asked Matt.
“Because, you know, it’s basically a moral issue. People haven’t been told that this is happening. They’ve been shown glossy pictures [while not being told, presumably], and they haven’t been told a price tag for it. They haven’t been told what they are going to have to pay [see Ann Fry's comments above].
“Yeah, there was a consultation event, but that’s like showing somebody a picture of a Ferrari when they drive a Ford Ka, like I do, and saying here’s a Ferrari do you like it, and people will naturally say ‘yes’, but unless they know the price, that’s not a proper consultation.”
Ahh, that’s because Ferraris are often free, of course!
Can you compare a regeneration programme to buying a Ferrari…
And finally, back to Anne, who said: “With a resident population of 25,000 people, I don’t think borrowing £340,000 is that outrageous to help our local economy.”