Friday, 22 June 2018

Village pulls out of bloom contest in row over funding

GORING has pulled out of this year’s Britain in Bloom competition.

GORING has pulled out of this year’s Britain in Bloom competition.

The organisers have blamed the parish council for taking too long to decide on a grant application.

Since the village first entered the competition in 2012, it has won two gold awards and two silver gilts in the small town category of the Thames and Chilterns region.

The Goring Gap in Bloom committee has told the Royal Horticultural Society, which organises the contest, that it didn’t know whether it would have enough money to see the bid through.

In December the committee of volunteers asked Goring Parish Council for £1,275 to pay for hanging baskets, tubs and planters and several other costs including the £50 entry fee and £227 for public liability insurance.



The council approved £600 for the containers but asked for more details on how the rest of the money would be spent and planned to discuss it at its meeting this month.

However, the committee’s chairwoman Stephanie Bridle wrote to the council, saying the village’s entry had been withdrawn as the necessary funding was “too uncertain”.

Mrs Bridle, who is a former parish councillor, said: “The unanimous decision was based on the uncertainty around the council’s financial support and its apparent lack of understanding of its role in our work.

“The requirement to enter a bidding process to provide the necessary balance to support the team’s valuable voluntary work was regarded as insensitive and derisory.

“The decision to withdraw from the competition was not taken lightly as we are aware that the village now expects us to continue bringing success back to the community.”

Mrs Bridle said parish councils in similar-sized towns gave their bloom committees up to £7,000 and her colleagues were “extremely disappointed” the full amount asked for hadn’t been agreed.

She said: “To have to bid for the balance without any guarantee that it will be forthcoming does not seem a sensible way to run what is, in fact, a public community service.

“It seems Goring Parish Council does not accept that it should be responsible for producing and maintaining an attractive local environment.

“We believe this service is not simply a nice but unnecessary aesthetic benefit but an important aspect of the village which attracts visitors to increase footfall and boost the local economy.

“This extra work of bidding and scratching around for funds only adds an administrative burden that no other group in the country has to carry.”

Mrs Bridge said £675 was still needed for floral baskets and planters around the village, which the council agreed to.

Council chairman Kevin Bulmer said: “We’re responsible for allocating public money so we wanted to know more about how it would be spent. It’s that simple.

“Oxfordshire County Council has had to make some of its biggest cuts to date and that burden is being handed down to the parishes. 

“We are having to pick up the slack on vital public services as well as basics like verge-cutting so we have to think carefully about how we spend every single penny.

“This council has supported Goring Gap in Bloom every year for some time so I don’t understand how anyone can claim otherwise.

“We only asked for more details while we were sorting out our budget and, as I understand it, there was still some time before the entry deadline passed.

“They knew when we would be making our decision so I don’t follow their rationale.”

• Goring Gap in Bloom is to host a bring and buy plant sale at the village hall from 10am to 4pm on April 23. It also needs volunteers for tasks such as sorting plants, baking cakes and washing up. Anyone who can help should email jhurst@w-mark.demon.co.uk



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