‘Letter was a gross misinterpretation’

MCBT Letters to the editor
MCBT Letters to the editor

This week’s letters page poses responses to previous correspondents about the shop front improvement scheme and potholes in a residential road.

Cat Young,

Chair of 21st Century Thame

I WRITE in response to a letter from Mr Steve Roberts published in the Thame Gazette on Friday 10th June regarding the ‘Shop Front Improvement Scheme’.

Mr Roberts could have saved his ‘outrage’ by directing his concerns to me. As the chair of the organisation delivering this project, I would have been able to reassure him that public money is being spent for the good of the town, and not to ‘fund private businesses, let alone banks’.

Mr Roberts has grasped the wrong end of the stick and is trying to beat us with it! He has grossly misrepresented the project and our work, and I’d like to correct some of his statements.

It is true that 21st Century Thame has secured £200,000 worth of funding from three public bodies: SEEDA, SODC and Thame Town Council.

However, the money is being spent on a whole range of projects, one of which is the Shop Fronts Improvement Scheme.

The total pot available is £50,000. Each business can claim up to a maximum of £2,000 and to be eligible the owner of the business has to:

- Show there is a need to make improvements to the outside of the building they occupy.

- The building must be visible from the street.

- Put up half of the money themselves.

- Cap his/her claim at £2,000.

The money is available to any eligible business in Thame or the surrounding villages, our ‘hinterland’. It is not available to any of the banks!

Yes, these businesses are private enterprises, but they are, in the main, small businesses and locally run. We need to support our local businesses, and with this money we are able to help a good number of them.

The need for the shop fronts to be improved has been identified during numerous public consultations undertaken throughout the last five years.

Our funders believe, as do we, that towns like Thame are under threat from the wider shopping choice available in larger towns such as Aylesbury and High Wycombe.

It is therefore imperative that we make our market towns as attractive as possible to shoppers and visitors, offering them an alternative to the ‘clone’ high streets.

The Shop Front Improvement scheme is designed to help achieve this objective.

I’m sure your readers will therefore agree that the public funds are indeed being spent wisely, and that they can celebrate the improvement it will bring to Thame, along with all the other projects we are delivering.

Anyone who has strong opinions about the future of Thame should get involved.

21st Century Thame is always looking for volunteers and it’s much more enjoyable to get involved than to complain from the side-lines!

Wake up and smell the budget cuts ...

Ralph Ingham-Johnson, Thame

NORMA and Rex (last weeks’ letters page) need to understand the dilemma facing our local councils: they’ve had their budgets cut.

Now, it is a long established tradition among public authorities that when budgets are cut by an incoming government, they have to be punished for it.

That punishment invariably takes the form of cutting frontline services, never internal costs. Diversity outreach co-ordinators and other non-job holders are protected. Some councils might try to raise extra cash by going into the fining business or setting up congestion zones and low emissions zones.

Oxfordshire cannot do this because the burden needs to fall mostly on outsiders.

Locals have votes and if the burden falls on them, it would cause an electoral backlash. Very few people commute into Oxfordshire - most commute out. Nelson Street is in a pretty deplorable state so my advice to Norma and Rex would be to get the materials and the equipment together and do it themselves.

I don’t doubt for a second that they will make a far better job of it as a result and save money.