FENLANDER: Tourism report ends a busy year for Overview & Scrutiny panel

AN overarching Tourism Board is to be set up to help attract more visitors to Fenland.

That was agreed by Fenland District Council’s Cabinet last month on the recommendation of a wide-ranging report by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel.

The new board will be looking to recruit people either as individuals or as representatives of groups who are keen to promote tourism, which is seen as a vital element in the development of the district’s economy.

The report was the culmination of a busy seven months’ work by the panel. Other key issues that have been subjected to rigorous examination include leisure fees, the future of Manea’s fire station and the provision of markets. It has also called in the LPSA reward grant and is working with Huntingdonshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council on a joint review of domestic abuse.

Councillor Pop Jolley, pictured, the panel’s chairman, said: “We’ve had a very heavy workload, addressing a variety of very important issues, and that will continue in the coming year. The next thing on our agenda will be the draft corporate plan and budget on January 16.

“The panel has worked extremely hard and I’m grateful to all the members both for their individual input and their collective efforts.”

On leisure fees, the panel’s recommendation that there should be no increase was rejected by Cabinet last month. However, it will have another chance to comment later this month when it will be able to view the increases in the context of the debate on the overall draft budget.

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The panel is continuing to keep a close eye on the discussions about the Manea’s fire station. In July it called in Graham Stagg, chief fire officer for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue, to quiz him on the station’s possible closure.

Afterwards it issued a strongly worded statement, saying: “We view the service provided by the Manea fire station as vital not only for the people of Manea but for Fenland as a whole... its closure would send out the message that a life in Manea is worth less than a life in Chatteris or March. That is not acceptable.”

The panel consists of members from all parties represented on FDC.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Gavin Booth said: “The panel has an important role to play in giving opposition and backbench councillors the opportunity to challenge decisions made by the Cabinet.

“We have been leading on the development of tourism within Fenland, which should hopefully increase the district’s profile in the future. And although our recent challenge to the decision to increase leisure charges for next year wasn’t accepted by Cabinet, it demonstrates clearly our independent stance.”

Councillor Virginia Bucknor, of the Truly Independent Party, said: “O&S has an important function to play within FDC and undertakes in-depth reviews of particular issues of relevance to local people. We have ‘called in’ a number of executive councillors and representatives of other organisations to provide details on decisions made and policies being pursued.

“I am also part of the group within Cambridgeshire reviewing a wide range of organisations involved with supporting people who have experienced domestic violence.”

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