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Visitor information centres fight is not over

Herne Bay visitor centre which is facing closure
Herne Bay visitor centre which is facing closure

HOPES of a last-minute reprieve for the coastal Visitor Information Centres could be dashed within days as an emergency public meeting has been called this Tuesday (July 22) at 10am.

The fight to save both Whitstable and Herne Bay’s centres appeared back on after councillors voted on Wednesday to demand a rethink on the proposals. But barely 24 hours later the announcement that the final decision could be made on a weekday morning has upset those opposed to the closure.

Cllr Ron Flaherty, whose wife Margaret also sits on the council, said: "It is disgusting, they're trying to sneak it through. I can't make the meeting, I'll be working, and my wife will be teaching.

"When I asked why they were holding it at such short notice and at such a ridiculous time of day I was told it was because the chief executive of the council was going to Tuscany!"

The original decision, to go ahead with the closure of the Herne Bay and Whitstable VICs and replace them with a network of leaflet stands and web kiosks with limited face to face services, had been 'called in' by members at Wednesday's meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Hours of debate, pleas and revelations culminated in committee chairman Alex Perkins (LibDem) using his casting vote to force the issue to go back to the ruling Conservatrive executive committee.

He said: “To call it an improvement strategy is extremely dishonest. If something is cuts-led not improvement-led, it will not provide the services we require."

Eight speakers, including Gazette reporter Liz Crudgington, spoke out about the valuable service provided by the award-winning VIC staff and the lack of a full public consultation to allow people a chance to consider all the facts and figures and come up with other ideas.

But the hours of debate, and the public campaigning, could yet come to nothing if the Executive members vote as previously on Tuesday.

BLOB The meeting of the Executive Committee of Canterbury City Council takes place on Tuesday, July 22, at 10am at The Guildhall, Westgate, Canterbury.

See this week's Whitstable Gazette and Herne Bay Gazette for full story.

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