There is a more than a little bit of Orwellian doublespeak in last week’s press statement from Shropshire Council:
Shropshire Council to continue to invest in the tourism sector.
By ‘continue to invest’ it means that it is halving the number of tourism posts from two to one.
Shropshire Council is turning its back on tourism as an industry.
Tim King – who is widely respected across the county and beyond for his work in promoting Shropshire – will be made redundant.
This is penny pinching at the expense of Shropshire’s tourism economy.
The remaining tourism position is set to be little more than a public relations post for the council’s own museums. The person appointed will have other duties, including liaising on tourism at a “strategic level” and helping raise funding, but the post is spread thinly across a lot of areas. The statement that the post will “concentrate on developing the impact and sustainability of the Council’s own facilities such as Museums on the tourism sector” is likely to be the reality.
Shropshire Council does not have a vision for the economic future of our county. Cabinet member Steve Charmley said:
By investing in developing strong partnerships at a destination or town level, with appropriate strategies in place, businesses, existing tourism organisations and communities can continue to work together to attract new external funding opportunities available to rural areas.
This sort of statement looks good – to some. But it has no sense of purpose and means next to nothing in reality.
This is not the only cutback in tourism. Shropshire Council’s investment in the Visitor Information Centre in Ludlow has been decimated. Professional staff have taken redundancy and expertise has been lost. That seems always to be the case in Shropshire Council which seems not to value the expertise and experience of its staff. It is only concerned with their cost to its budget.
In 2005 – we don’t have any more recent data – tourism in South Shropshire was worth £116.7m and supported approximately 3,500 jobs. I am sure that the tourism economy has increased since.
Across Shropshire, tourism was valued at £501million in 2011 and supported just over 14,500 jobs. According to a briefing document supplied by Shropshire Council’s head of commissioning to the Lib Dem group, tourism “is highlighted in the Shropshire [Council], LEP and ESIF strategies as an investment priority.” Withdrawing funding and jobs is disinvestment, not investment.
We can’t afford to let one of our most vital industries slip.