Herts Ad Comment: Why St Albans Cathedral should run the city instead of the district council

Herts Advertiser comment

Herts Advertiser comment - Credit: Archant

Our lacklustre district council could learn a few lessons from St Albans Cathedral when it comes to running a successful tourism operation.

The Abbey has been praised for doubling revenues, boosting visitors, swelling attendances at services and rivalling the High Street as a “one-stop shop”.

Events like Herts University’s degrees ceremony, St Albans LitFest’s evening with Frank Gardner, St Albans Fashion Week’s acclaimed catwalk show and various live concerts knock spots off anything organised by the council, lacking the bloated bureaucracy and rigid adherance to rules which so restricts the local authority. What’s more, they attract visitors from across the district and further afield, in contrast to self-aggrandising events like Residents First, or whatever it’s called this year.

In contrast, SADC has stumbled its way through the past few years, with a virtually non-existent Tourist Information service, a failing Christmas market and an inability to engage successfully with neighbouring Harpenden, which ended up with the town snubbing the recent Food and Drink Festival and in return being double-booked for its festive lights switch-on.

It has washed its hands of the popular pancake race, failed to back the national Heritage Open Days initiative, gleefully increased parking fees to fill its coffers, and procrastinated for months over what to do to tackle the poisoned lakes in Verulamium Park.

Instead of supporting and nurturing the city centre business community, the council grinds them down with increased rates and decreased services, whereas the Cathedral opens its arms to everyone, and will go out of its way to support the local economy.

One organisation knows exactly what needs to be done to make St Albans thrive for residents and visitors alike, whereas the other doesn’t seem to have a clue. Maybe SADC should hand over the reins of power to the Abbey instead?