Group of Bury St Edmunds councillors share objections to £25,000 contribution to arc shopping centre for Santa's Grotto at Christmas
A group of Bury St Edmunds town councillors have shared concerns over a £25,000 contribution to the arc shopping centre which would help fund a Santa's Grotto at Christmas this year.
The money was pledged at a Bury Town Council meeting yesterday evening after a majority of councillors gave the green light during a vote, with Bury town mayor Pete Thompson explaining afterwards the decision was made to increase footfall into the town and the money had already been set aside for Christmas projects.
The total cost of the grotto will be just shy of £83,000, which the arc is subsidising, and it would be based in the old Topshop unit from November 27 until December 24.
It comes as West Suffolk Council said they would back the Town Council and arc's bid, as well as help to put on a series of activities and events in the run up to Christmas.
With the motion passed last night, a number of Labour councillors and a Communist councillor shared their objections to the decision.
Cllr Diane Hind, Cllr Kevin Hind, Cllr Donna Higgins, Cllr Nicola Ianelli-Popham, Cllr Katie Parker, Cllr Darren Turner, Cllr Cliff Waterman, Cllr Cyrille Bouche said they felt the grotto would not 'represent value for money'.
They also questioned the £10 cost for entry tickets to the grotto.
They said the £25,000 had been pledged at a time when residents were facing fuel cost rises, Universal Credit cuts, and in a few months increases to National Insurance.
They proposed a 'smaller traditional Santa experience' which would cost less to the taxpayer.
In response to the objections, Bury town mayor Pete Thompson said the Santa's Grotto project was about increasing footfall into the town around the Christmas period. He said this would hopefully have a positive knock-on effect on the town's businesses.
"It's redacted funds from other Christmas fair projects which couldn't go ahead and this is an alternative that we can execute," he said.
"The aim of the project is to support the town centre business community as a whole, so all of the independents will get added footfall.
"We are protecting the residents of Bury St Edmunds who have been hit hard.
"We are supporting the independent businesses who have been hit hard."
He added the aim of the grotto was to keep Bury a 'vibrant' town which would attract people from across East Anglia.
Steve Bunce, arc shopping centre manager, said: "arc shopping centre are committed to investing in Bury St Edmunds and are grateful for the partnerships within the town; the Town Council, West Suffolk Council, Bury and Beyond, Our Bury St Edmunds and Bury St Edmunds Tourism amongst others, that allow us to work together to ensure that we make our town a great success especially this Christmas."
Greg Luton, town clerk for Bury Town Council, said: "The backing of local activities is an important part of the Town Council’s work, and funding Christmas events in Bury St Edmunds has had general support from the Council over many months.
"Last night, direct funding was again debated at Full Council; the Council chamber is, of course, the correct place for such a debate and views were put forward for both sides, leading to a decision.
"In the end, a majority voted to support the action taken."