Cuts or farms? Eastbourne council boss leaves decision to public poll

Protesters gathered outside Eastbourne Town Hall this week to oppose the sale of the farms
Protesters gathered outside Eastbourne Town Hall this week to oppose the sale of the farms
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Residents are being offered the choice between the council selling the downland farms or cutting public services – including maintenance of the Carpet Gardens.

Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, Cllr David Tutt, said a poll will be sent to every household next week.

He said, “We are sharing with people the difficult choices we have to make every day. The council is trying to keep providing the full range of services since big Government cuts came in – adding up to £6m a year.

“I can understand the feeling of selling the family silver, but we are buying more silver or even perhaps gold with it instead.

“The recently-bought Victoria Mansions is one of the ways we can invest the capital from the sale.

“Over the years it will increase in value and it will give us a return, which will help support frontline services and provide much-needed homes.”

The services proposed to be cut include a ‘change in permanent plants and reduced grass cutting’ of the Carpet Gardens. Community grants will be slashed by half, households charged for green waste, and street cleaning cut by 25 per cent.

Cllr Tutt said, “These are the softest options, the least damaging of the cuts we could make. Other councils are slashing frontline services.

“But if the people tell us they’d rather have the cuts we can stop the sale process.”

Brenda Pollack, of Friends of the Earth, said, “Previously Cllr Tutt said they needed the money to pay for projects like the revamp of Devonshire Park, not basic council services.

“This poll doesn’t sound like a fair way of asking for public input. The sales are an extremely unpopular move by the council. It’s no good having ambitious plans if they need to rob Peter to pay Paul by selling off publicly owned downland farms.”

The poll, which will be in The Eastbourne Review, should be returned freepost to the council by March 3.