Those that have sought to present interim arrangements as Canterbury Council’s solution to tourist information in Herne Bay are at best disingenuous and at worst downright dishonest. To photograph the leaflet stand in the Council offices and to try to present this as the replacement for the bandstand shop is idiotic as even the meanest of intelligences must be fully aware that the Council has proposed that the new facilities will be rolled out in time for the start of the tourist season at Easter and will be further enhanced thereafter.
Had the critics taken the trouble, as I have myself, to speak to the Leader of the Council, John Gilbey, or the portfolio holder, Mike Patterson, then they would know that staff training is well advanced, that work is under way to re-model the Council Offices, to enhance the signage and to issue contracts for proven technology to provide the promised touch-screen 24-hour information machines not only at the Council offices and at the bandstand but at an increasing number of locations around the Town.
They would also know that the mandatory tender period for interest in providing an attractive use for the now vacant bandstand has now closed and bids are being properly considered as legally they must. Others may feel that the transition might have been seamless but it is not possible to award a contract for an occupied building and like it or not the Council has to act within the provisions of regulation and the law.
With the merger of the Council’s Economic Development and Tourism briefs there is every reason to believe that the Canterbury intends to devote more, not less, energy and resource into developing our coastal tourist offer. That will require increased investment and cannot be regarded as a “cost cutting exercise” even though the council’s budget is, as a result of government policy, under very considerable pressure.
Tourism is still one of the UK’s largest industries and employers and, with the recession biting, it is likely that still more families and individuals will opt for domestic seaside holidays and short breaks in the coming year. It is vital that towns like Herne Bay are enabled to take advantage of this opportunity and I am confident that the new officer team working on this project have the skill and the ability to deliver a tourism offer that is designed to meet the requirements not of the last century but of the present one and the future. They need and deserve encouragement not carping criticism.
Roger Gale M.P. (January 21st 2009)