LETTER: ELDC missing the point re Louth Town Partnership

ELDC Councillor Craig Leyland misses the target when attempting to explain (Leader Mar 11) the Council’s withdrawal of funding for the Louth Town Partnership (LTP).

In my view the LTP’s fate was sealed in late 2012 when Cllr George Horton, then Partnership chair, and myself as vice-chair, presented a detailed three-year business plan to ELDC.

This plan was designed to steer the LTP towards financial independence. We pointed out that the LTP’s main events, including the popular Food Festival, Victorian Family Fayre and Christmas Market, had become profitable, attracting up to 5000 visitors per event.

The LTP’s main expenses were the salary and on-costs of the ELDC-funded Town Manager. Initially around £60,000 a year, it fell to nearer £40,000 when the position was revamped as Town Co-Ordinator in an attempt to reduce costs.

While presenting the LTP plan, I well recall adverse comments from both the ELDC portfolio holder for finance, Cllr John Upsall, backed by the Leader, Cllr Doreen Stephenson. “You appear to be getting nowhere,” (or words to that effect) said Cllr Upsall. “It seems you are back to square one”. I pointed out that around 15 volunteers were giving their services freely to meet the objectives of the LTP, and said the Council was getting remarkably good value for its modest investment.

But to no avail. We submitted a revised plan in early 2013 (by which time I was acting chair because ELDC opposed having a councillor in the position). Meantime, and under some pressure from ELDC, the LTP board studied the merits of forming a Business Improvement District (BID) – a fund-raising method under which town businesses pay an extra levy on their business rate. The board held a workshop on the subject and sounded out a few business people. As we’d previously thought, there was little appetite for yet another impost on business rates and we decided that Louth was not ready for a BID. Accordingly, I informed ELDC and I understand our decision was poorly received.

I felt then that certain Councillors held a negative view of the LTP and that any tectonic shift in our favour was highly unlikely. So I decided to quit. To their credit, some hard-working board members soldiered on and continued to stage the major events - at a profit. But despite their efforts the funding plug was pulled and the LTP is history.

There is more I could record here but I will resist the temptation. Suffice to say that there appear to be some councillors in Manby who care little for Louth’s future, judging by poor decisions in recent years. I cite specifically the ill-thought-out parking changes that have done nothing but discourage visitors and congest our residential streets, and the glaring lack of transparency over the sale of the cattle market and with it the 
threat to our independent shops of yet another supermarket.

Finally, I wish the fledgling Louth Independent Traders every success in their endeavours to continue to promote our town, and
 I sincerely hope Ludensians will think very carefully before voting in the 
coming district council elections.

Patrick Neville

George St, Louth