Axing Shape Your Place community website will save county council £180,000 a year - but not all users are happy with the decision

Shape Your Place, Fenland's online voice

Shape Your Place, Fenland's online voice - Credit: Archant

Closure of the Cambridgeshire County Council community website Shape Your Place will save council tax payers £180,000 over the next 12 months.

The figure was revealed by the council as it prepares to axe the website on March 25 and to stop taking comments and messages on it from March 2.

“The 2014-15 budget for Shape Your Place was £179, 695,” said a council spokesman. “The expenditure for 2014-15 will be less than the amount budgeted due to reductions in staff hours, reduction in management costs and not filling jobs as they became vacant.”

The council also revealed that once the website closes “unfortunately its content will no longer be available”.

The decision to axe Shape Your Place has met with mixed response from its users and regular contributors.

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Wisbech, for instance, where it started – thanks to central Government funding- 14 comments, mostly critical, have been posted on line.

Next are Chatteris with 10 comments, March with six and Huntingdon with one comment.

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However not a single comment – pro or anti- has been posted to the Cambridge, Ely. Soham, St Ives or South Cambridgeshire Shape Your Place sites.

The county council said it had asked local councils if they wished to pay to keep Shape Your Place but no financial offers had been received.

“The council has to find £30 million in savings this coming year after having already cut £100 million over the last three years,” said a spokesman.

The council says Shape Your Place has been “highly successful with in excess of 246,000 visitors who have made well over half a million visits”.

However the council adds that “in these austere times we have to focus on what we can and what we cannot continue to deliver”.

Contributors have been generally angry that the site is being axed: one user described it as a site “where you could actually get answers from the relevant authorities”.

Another said: “What a terrible shame. SYP has been a fantastic platform for all sorts of community issues, ideas and knowledge sharing. I think it should be kept up. Some of us would really miss this accessible networking site.”

One reader asked: “What will happen to the archives? If there are photos and videos that have been shared, communities may need more time to set up their own forums and to rescue or retrieve any information shared.”

Fenland district and former Cambridgeshire county councillor Steve Tierney wrote on Shape Your Place: “The end of this site has been on the cards for some time. ‘Austerity’ is not the cause – the site started during ‘austerity’ and its budget grew during austerity, because at that point the council recognised the value in a public forum where people could express views and report problems and have ideas, under the umbrella of local authorities.

“But the site was doomed when control of county council was taken by a rainbow coalition and when the committee system was introduced.”

Another user claimed that “shutting this site was not to save money; it was done to shut the public up”.

One other wrote that it was “one very sad day coming up, it will be missed. Let’s hope that the money saved will be used for protecting the vulnerable, roads etc, and not swallowed up in some bank account in Cambridge.”

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