Letter - City’s bashers are a vocal minority says leader

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I HOPE you will allow me to respond to the letters published on October 5.

In particular Mr Milburn did not put his critical comments in context and some of his facts were plain wrong.

We are going through the worst global recession in history but apparently, “the economic wasteland” is the council’s fault. Blaming the council for boarded up shops, charity shops and the world wide recession is ridiculous.

Look at two closed shops in Trinity Walk, Clinton Cards and La Senza. Both firms have gone into liquidation and their stores throughout the country have closed. That’s hardly Wakefield Council’s fault.

Neither is a hospital with “no beds” although perhaps Mr Milburn is guilty of the kind exaggeration which he levels at politicians.

The manager of the Ridings undermined his remarks by setting an optimistic note and explained how the council work closely with her and her business colleagues. In tough times we are doing the best we can.

Mr Milburn is also wrong about business rates. They are fixed by central government - not­ the local council.

The Express has reported on several occasions that work on a new station at Westgate begins shortly. In addition Kirkgate is to be renovated with the help of council funding.

The other fact conveniently omitted is the Tory government cuts to our own budget. £19 million in 2011. £22 million this year and at least £24 million in 2013. So yes we are having to make tough choices, including Clarke Hall, and I can assure people that things will get much worse.

As for the new road system Mr Milburn says was designed by a three year old, the majority of people support what’s been done and have praised the new gardens near the war memorial. There was extensive consultation beforehand.

I agree with both Mr Milburn and Mr Hall that the new market leaves something to be desired in terms of atmosphere. I’ve asked the chief executive to look at what might be done.

Mr Hall is critical of the new water feature but as always it’s a matter of taste. I’ve certainly seen many people, young and old alike, enjoying themselves near the water. And I’m not sure which shops he refers to when he talks about council “rent hikes” and perhaps he could let me know.

The letter from Graeme Greenwood from, Cambridgeshire, published a few weeks ago was overlooked by both Mr Milburn and Mr Hall.

Mr Greenwood says he discovered Wakefield two years ago, has become a regular visitor and can’t get enough of the place. He says, and I quote, “I think Wakefield has got it right and more cities and towns in the UK should take a leaf out of Wakefield’s book!” As Mr Hall would say ‘nuff said!

Or perhaps the Bishop is wrong when he wrote recently expressing similar comments, or the German girl I met last week who had come to visit our cultural offer and the group of women I met from Doncaster who had come for the same reason. Surely they don’t all fit Mr Hall’s description of “dopey southerner”! And, by the way, that expression is going to make visitors feel really welcome isn’t it.

On the same day that the letters appeared I spoke to a meeting of Wakefield business people who without exception were supportive of what has taken place over the last few years. Indeed they expressed their frustration and disappointment at the people who constantly run down Wakefield.

And I can take both Mr Milburn and Mr Hall to meet local business people who will tell them exactly the same thing.

Mr Milburn forgets two other important facts. First that Wakefield has the second lowest council tax of all the metropolitan authorities. And second that the electorate returned the present administration with a hugely increased majority last May. Not because we are perfect, far from it, but because people realise that in the toughest times any of us have experienced we are doing our best to support them.

Mr Milburn and Mr Hall represent a vocal minority. Despite that we will to continue to do our best to provide good local services, invest in the future and learn when we go wrong.

Rather than prolong this correspondence I would invite both Mr Milburn and Mr Hall to the next Wakefield Speaks event where I would be more than happy to debate these issues with them.

Coun Peter Box CBE

Leader, Wakefield MDC