A bid to spend £100,000 to stop travellers camping on public land across Nuneaton and Bedworth has been put on hold.
The opposing Conservatives at Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council suggested that £150,000, which had been set-aside for a stalled project, should be used to both ‘target harden’ at-risk land and also spruce up Riversley Park.
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While agreeing in principal to the idea, the ruling Labour group were hesitant to vote for the Tories motion – asking for a report to be prepared instead.
The Conservatives said that money to refurbish Valley Farm in Galley Common has been sitting in council coffers for eight years and that £100,000 of it would be better spent now on an issue that has been causing huge concern to the community – illegal travellers.
Councillor Kris Wilson, leader of the Tories at the Town Hall , motioned an amendment to the capital programme to use the £150,000 Valley Farm money with £100,000 on ‘target hardening’ vulnerable traveller-hit sites and £50,000 on giving Riversley Park some ‘TLC’.
“The money has been sat there and sat there and sat there and has not benefited the people of this borough,” he said.
“When you compare and contrast the Miner’s Welfare Park and Riversley Park, there is a vast difference.
“I don’t think residents would notice the money (Valley Farm) being used into projects that will benefit more people in the borough and use the £100,000 on projects like putting in more robust barriers, putting in earth bunds and mounds, or perhaps, if warranted, putting CCTV in the sites to see if we can try and capture the people who are breaking the locks, I am not saying it is viable, but it is worth looking at
“It will not be a panacea but it will be another tool in our armoury to actually do something.”
Cllr Keith Kondakor agreed, saying: “I would like to massively support this, we have money that is sitting around doing nothing and we have these issues.
“I particularly like the comment about CCTV, I have noticed travellers being quite adverse of being photographed or videoed I think some of the dome-hawk cameras for the sites that are regularly targeted.”
In regards to the cash for Riversley Park, he said: “There is a massive difference and I want that quality in Riversley Park. I hope that we have some cross party unity for a change.”
The amendment followed an earlier motion, this time tabled by Labour, in which Cllr Gynne Pomfrett, praised the council officers for their fast work in turning court hearings around, as well as the clean-up operations, and the ongoing work to get an injunction.
He challenged the Tories, saying: “If you want to fortify the whole borough, you find the resources and we will do it.”
Cllr Clare Golby remembered this and said: “It is time to start putting your money where your mouth this, there is £100,000 here, it is time you put it into practice.
“Like you said ‘you find it, we will do it’ – well Merry Christmas.”
Cllr Tricia Elliott said: “There is CCTV on several of the sites and the video footage was passed on to the police, who were not able to attend, but we do need the police to be adequately funded.”
Cllr Hayden Walmsley spoke about how the money could be put to good use immediately, saying: “There are things we can do to make it less attractive as an area.
“We all have parks and green spaces that residents become protective of, we know the strength of feeling on this matter, now we have the opportunity to do something on and it is something that we can do today.”
(Image: Images courtesy of Rizwan Patel)
But Cllr Bill Hancox was unsure, saying: “My problem is it is an ambush on what was put forward earlier on tonight and every speaker has come up with their own wish list, I thought the days of this council having bun fights over allocations of money were gone.
“At the moment, £100, 000 isn’t going to go very far if you are going to allocate it for everyone’s wish list.”
“I want to be absolutely clear and I don’t like being ambushed at meetings.”
Cllr Ian Lloyd, cabinet member for arts and leisure, said: “I understand what you are trying to put forward, I want to put forward an amendment, that a report comes back on that £150,000 so we know exactly about Valley Farm, the next full council , which is on October 8, and then we will make a decision there.
“I have got no problems with what you are saying, rather than coming up with lots of different wish lists, let’s have a look at it properly, if it is there, we will bring it back to the next full council.”
A vote was taken on the Tory amendment, with 17 in favour and 17 against, so the mayor, used his casting vote and voted against.
This led to another vote, this time on the amendment by proposed by Labour.
‘It is better than doing nothing’
Cllr Dan Gissane said: “There is £150,000 there, we have got issues with travellers, we should show residents we are trying to deal with issues, it is better than doing nothing, it is doing something.”
Town Hall leader, Cllr Julie Jackson said: “This is a friendly amendment. For the sake of a few weeks, we can have a detailed report back from officers in regards to the £150,000.”
But Cllr Tromans said: “The crux of it, the Labour group didn’t want to support it, they want to kick that can down the road until the next meeting, You either supported what was very clear, the funds have been identified, but you are on record on having rejected that.”
Cllr Kris Wilson said he would support the Labour amendment in a bid to keep the sentiment of the original Tory amendment alive.
“I will vote on because it keeps the possibility alive, in the hope that we will move forward with this and we will say ‘Yes’ on October 8. If you don’t, you are doing a great disservice to residents
“To be honest, the party opposite have made a huge mistake.”
Cllr Neil Phillips said: “I can’t see any reason why this won’t go ahead, it is well alive, we just need to get the scrutiny of how much things will cost but we will know by October. We will do everything we possibly can to keep this alive.”
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