Last Word: councillor in row over Stevenage Day
IT is truly ridiculous that the biggest event in Stevenage s social calendar has been axed essentially because of a clash of personalities of two grown men, writes Louise McEvoy. Stevenage Day has been held annually in the town for the past 50 years and i
IT is truly ridiculous that the biggest event in Stevenage's social calendar has been axed essentially because of a clash of personalities of two grown men, writes Louise McEvoy.
Stevenage Day has been held annually in the town for the past 50 years and is a fun day out for all the family, with top attractions, stalls, games, rides and competitions. It also provides an opportunity for about 70 charities to promote themselves.
Last week the Stevenage Day committee held a meeting and voted to scrap the event on the grounds that the committee was insolvent as it could not pay an invoice to Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) totalling almost �4000.
However, having been present at the meeting, it seemed clear the fact the committee had gone bust was being used as a vehicle - almost a convenient excuse - to axe the event.
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It is no secret that there is no love lost between John Lloyd - the chairman of the committee and a member of Stevenage Borough Council - and John Wells - the organiser of Stevenage Day.
It was clear from the start of the meeting that Cllr Lloyd and the committee's treasurer, Robin Cherney, were intent on axing Stevenage Day before discussions with other committee members even began. Both threatened to resign if the ultimate decision was to keep the event going.
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It became apparent that no direct attempts had been made to engage with the creditors - SBC - to ask if there was any way to resolve the financial problem, with Cllr Lloyd repeatedly saying that council officers had been present at the Stevenage Day committee meetings and had reported the situation back to others at the council.
In a letter to The Comet, published two weeks ago, Cllr Michael Downing - SBC's portfolio holder for community, health and older people - wrote: "The council will do everything it can to secure [Stevenage Day] for the future. There has, as yet, been no formal approach to the council on this matter by the committee."
There appears to be simply no evidence of a solution to the insolvency having been rigorously and tirelessly sought.
One committee member asked Cllr Lloyd outright: "Are you basically saying that because of the divisions in the Stevenage Day committee it's a good way to start again? It's fairly obvious that various members of the committee are at loggerheads with each other." Cllr Lloyd agreed that this was the case.
He said he hoped Stevenage Day would be resurrected under new management, "like a phoenix out of the ashes." But the simple truth is that there is no guarantee that this will happen. The event has been axed with no clear plan of how and when it may be started up again.
Assurances were given at the meeting that every effort will be made to find a new way to hold the event next year, but this is highly unlikely to happen. Acts need to be booked now and such organisation cannot be born out of such chaos.