After the closure of Parker Knoll a Joint Committee of the County, District and Town was set up under the chairmanship of Barry Norton (Leader of WODC) to consider ways of mitigating the effect on Chipping Norton of the loss of 400 jobs and to consider ways to encourage the development of new employment opportunities. In that Committee the County Council representative promised that 400,000 of the money the County had received for waiving a covenant on part of the Parker Knoll land would be allocated to a Capital Resources fund which would be used on projects to help the economic regeneration of Chipping Norton and specifically towards the creation of new jobs. No time limit was placed on this undertaking A number of projects have been considered by the Partnership since then for the use of the money. A proposal was developed to set up an Enterprise centre (for which additional funding was obtained from SEEDA). Another idea taken forward was to subsidise the purchase by CETA of land at the old council depot to build a new head office. Unfortunately neither of these projects came to fruition. Basically because the Partnership didn't know what it was doing.
At the Town Council last night it emerged that now the Leader of the County Council has written to the Mayor saying that there is only 320,000 of this money left. No information about where 80,000 has disappeared to After talking to the District and Councillor Biles the County don't think there are any viable projects around in connection with job creation.. Nobody bothered to ask the town. So the County have decided - again with absolutely no consultation - to use 200,000 of the money towards the Chippy Youth Centre and to simply appropriate the rest into their general reserves. The whole of this Capital Resources fund will be used without any contribution at all being made to the economic development of the town.
We will protest but nothing will happen. This is a huge opportunity missed. We have let hundreds of thousands of pounds slip through our fingers. Of course there are a number of very worthwhile projects being worked on which could have benefited from this fund. Despite being warned that they had better get a move on and apply, the usual talk shops in town simply continued debating - the Partnership, the Town Hall and Publicity Committee of the Town Council and the Guild of Commerce could all have accessed big money given some decent worked-through proposals. They have missed the boat.
Later in the meeting Gina Burrows said that because her Publicity Committee could not raise the 200 needed to host a Town Council website she was recommending that the Town Council accept an offer to have some pages on the website initially funded by the County Council but now apparently funded by Ken Norman's Breakfast Club. Had she and her committee woken up a bit earlier in the year she could have all the money she needed from the "Capital Resources" fund. Now it seems as if details of Planning Applications will be appearing alongside advertisements for local builders!! There is no other local government authority in the country that communicates with its electors on a site sponsored by local businesses. Indeed its probably illegal to do so. Its about avoiding being seen to be under a commercial prejudicial influence. But nobody had checked. This didn't stop the Town Council from happily agreeing to the proposal. What a complete fiasco!