Hitchin councillor asks ‘Why can’t we bid for a Tour de France stage?’ as way of fighting against further austerity

Councillor Frank Radcliffe

Councillor Frank Radcliffe - Credit: Archant

The leader of the minority Labour group on North Herts District Council has made a passionate pitch for an alternative vision among the district’s elected representatives, urging them to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to raising revenue.

Councillor Frank Radcliffe told members at Thursday’s full council meeting that they should to use their imagination to bring in more income as a way of preserving jobs and services.

His plea followed another austerity budget delivered by the council’s finance portfolio holder Councillor Terry Hone. Councillors voted in favour of increasing the North Herts proportion of council tax by 1.9 per cent.

Councillor Radcliffe, who represents Hitchin’s Oughton ward, condemned further austerity measures and warned that cutting growth causes deficits.

He said the Conservative-led council’s approach would lead to job losses, and make future deficits even worse, adding: “With more cuts to local government, the answer will not be found in a bare cupboard. The council believes the way forward is to cut more services.

“As we’ve seen with the Churchgate and Hitchin Town Hall and museum debacles, this administration has shown an ability to waste money, time and resources.

“We should be thinking about bidding for the Tour de France. We should benefit more from proximity to Luton Airport – tourism to Hitchin is massively overlooked, as are the opportunities afforded by the new museum in the town.

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“Why can’t we bid to stage an important art exhibition at the site?

“We can forge our own identity like places such as Hay-on-Wye, home of the famous book festival, with a population of 1,400. While London’s Shoreditch has burgeoned due to its arts and cultural vision – why can’t we do something similar here?”

In response, Councillor David Levett, who looks after the planning and enterprise portfolio, said: “Yes, we can have the services we want, and we can bid for those things – but it will come at a cost. You have to be able to pay for it.”

Councillor Hone added: “The decision to increase council tax by 1.9 per cent was not taken lightly.”

During the meeting it was also confirmed Bancroft’s splash park will open in May.