Budget consultation under fire as bus buildings in Bury and Mildenhall marketed

Cllrs David Ray, St Edmundsbury cabinet member for resources and performance, and Robin Millar, Forest Heath's cabinet member for families and communities, outside the information centre at Bury St Edmunds bus station ANL-140710-143547001
Cllrs David Ray, St Edmundsbury cabinet member for resources and performance, and Robin Millar, Forest Heath's cabinet member for families and communities, outside the information centre at Bury St Edmunds bus station ANL-140710-143547001
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A council’s budget consultation which sought views on the future of the information centre at Bury St Edmunds bus station has been described as a ‘sham’.

It comes as St Edmundsbury Borough Council revealed it is marketing the building to retail, business or community groups - before the results of its budget consultation are made public.

Forest Heath District Council is also inviting expressions of interest on the Mildenhall bus station building. Allowing a commercial or community organisation to operate from the buildings is designed as a revenue spinner and would ‘reduce the cost of the buildings to the taxpayer’.

However, opposition councillors in Bury St Edmunds have hit out at the decision to market the building before the budget consultation results are announced.

The consultation sought views on a number of options for the information building at the bus station, which costs £249,000 a year to run, including reducing the opening hours, removing staff, offering the building to a business or community group to provide a service and charging for the toilets.

Labour’s Cllr Diane Hind said: “I do not oppose commercial enterprise if that is what the public want. The issue I have is with offering the bus station building over to other operators when councillors haven’t been advised of budget responses nor had time to consider them.” She said ‘acting so quickly’ showed that decisions were made before the consultation began. Cllr Hind added: “This makes the consultation nothing more than a sham.”

Green Cllr Julia Wakelam said: “They haven’t actually told us what people said or thought. They have a veneer of consultation.” Independent Cllr David Nettleton said: “We haven’t seen what the consultation came back with. It just seems a bit of a mishmash of ideas without any real coherent strategy.”

On marketing the building, Cllr David Ray, St Edmundsbury’s cabinet member for resources and performance, said: “By working with a commercial operator we will be helping create new employment, while a community organisation could bring added value to people who already use our bus station buildings.”

A council spokesman added: “We are testing the viability of an option we consulted on, to see what interest there is in alternative uses for the building, which will help councillors arrive at a decision. The full results of the budget consultation, which are currently being analysed, will be made public alongside budget proposals for 2015/16 when they are presented to the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee on Nov 26.” Expressions of interest will be considered by the councils in December.