£120K new gateway to St Albans’ Clarence Park will not be crowdfunded, council hears

The Hatfield Road bridge entrance to Clarence Park

The Hatfield Road bridge entrance to Clarence Park - Credit: Archant

Funding has been agreed to replace the gateway into a St Albans park - despite a lobby to get it crowdfunded.

Last week’s full meeting of St Albans council agreed to spend £120,000 on replacing the gateway at the entrance to Clarence Park instead of trying to repair it.

The work had been agreed by the council’s city neighbourhoods committee (CNC) which felt it was a priority but subsequently it was branded a waste of public money by a councillor and a local resident who wanted to start a crowdfunding campaign to replace it.

Committee chair, Cllr Robert Donald, said after the council meeting: “I was very pleased that the portfolio holder for resources and the council leader did not try to reverse the recommendations of the city neighbourhoods committee at the main budget meeting. An overwhelming majority of CNC members had agreed to fund various new playground facilities and the replacement of the Clarence Park entrance using the committee’s available council tax resources.”

He went on: “Many residents and park users had lobbied the relevant councillors over recent weeks to respect the CNC’s decision and reject the suggestion that private investment and individual donations be sought via ‘crowdfunding’ to pay for this urgent work.

“This fund-raising method may well have a place in contributing towards the provision of some new facilities like the current City Museum but in my view it is totally inappropriate to use it to pay for the regular maintenance and replacement of council-owned assets and facilities like Clarence Park or for the running of its statutory services.”

Cllr Donald warned that to use crowdfunding in such a way would be ‘a highly regressive policy potentially returning council funding to the days of nineteenth century, idiosyncratic private patrons and benefactors’.

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He added: “It could rapidly result in major inequalities and inconsistencies of local provision especially for people on the lowest incomes. Local authorities were created to provide decent living standards for all and a healthy, clean environment for everyone in the community funded from general local taxation not private donations.”

Cllr Alun Davies and local resident Barry Sumpter led the campaign for the scheme to be crowdfunded arguing that feedback from people they had canvassed had shown that they would prefer council money to be spent on improving facilities such as play areas and tackling parking, congestion and

pothole problems.

* The district council has frozen its element of council tax for the eighth year in a row - and council house rents will be reduced by one per a year for the next four years.

Councillors also agreed a corporate plan which sets out priorities for 2016-21 including a new museum and art gallery in the Town Hall and a £6.2 million investment in improvements to council housing, mainly the installation of new kitchens, roofing, bathrooms and heating.

Among the amendments that were accepted at the full council meeting was an additional £60,000 to be used to fund a reduction in the backlog of traffic regulation orders affecting on-street parking schemes.

A further £100,000 is to be allocated for flood defences and £60,000 for the protection of verges in residential areas. An extra £25,000 is to be used to plant trees.

The district’s council tax element, including town and parish council precepts, at £168 for a Band D property amounts to around 14% of the total bill. The county council takes 76% and the police 10%.