Wiltshire Publications

Westbury deserves more, says councillors

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WESTBURY town councillors’ longheld frustrations that the town is missing out on much-needed government support and funding have been further fuelled by the latest revelation that Wiltshire Council is looking at securing more central money for Melksham, Trowbridge and Salisbury – with no mention of anything for Westbury.

Councillors including the town mayor, cllr Sheila Kimmins, have expressed shock and disappointment at Wiltshire Council leader cllr Richard Clewer’s recent confirmation that the authority intends to bid for a portion of the Levelling Up fund – which is designed to improve local infrastructure, develop town centres and help local businesses – for projects in Melksham, Trowbridge and Salisbury.

In our last issue, White Horse News reported Westbury councillors’ concern that  the town was Wiltshire’s “forgotten enclave” after it was revealed Trowbridge would be benefiting from more than £16million from the Future High Streets Fund, following a review of local proposals.  

After hearing about Wiltshire Council’s latest intentions for the Levelling Up fund, cllr Sheila Kimmins, told White Horse News, “It’s extraordinarily disappointing that Wiltshire Council seems to overlook Westbury whenever they are looking for extra money – but we do have some new unitary authority councillors and we are hoping that will help. 

“We need support for our town, and for it to recover from the effects of the pandemic. We need to look at funding for schools and children, we need more jobs, Westbury has some of the poorest areas in the county. We need infrastructure.

“Melksham are going to have more houses built so they need the infrastructure, but Westbury has also had hundreds of homes built, but no new schools, shops or community centres. The new homes are just like dormitories as there’s nothing there for them.”

Cllr Mike Sutton said, “It is disappointing but not in the least surprising  that yet again Wiltshire Council has conducted business on their usual premise that Westbury does not exist.

“Quite why Trowbridge or Salisbury need levelling up has not been forthcoming, but then again openness about their decision-making has never been at the forefront of Wiltshire Council policy.

“To the best of my knowledge this cllr Clewer, whatever his remit, has not approached Westbury or their representatives to ask our opinion or ascertain any facts about the needs in our town but as I say, par for the course for Wiltshire!”

And cllr Gordon King said he was shocked to his core that cllr Richard Clewer and Wiltshire Council did not mention Westbury. 

“I would suggest they look closely at their own data,” said cllr King. “Should they do that, they will notice that Westbury is a vulnerable community with an area of deprivation that is ranked in the UK top 10 most deprived. 

“Their own JSNA (Joint Strategic Needs Assessment) ranks the Westbury community area at the bottom in most categories and in terms of child poverty that very same data reveals that Westbury has the highest incidence of any community area in Wiltshire. That area of deprivation has a long history of worklessness and is highly vulnerable to shifts in economic performance, resulting in sustained periods of unemployment. 

“Many use foodbanks to get by and balance priorities. Couple that together with industrial decline, poor retail choice and inadequate infrastructure, Westbury must be as deserving of levelling up as any other community in Wiltshire. 

“I suggest that Richard Clewer and his Conservative cabinet take off their spectacles, give them a good clean and look once more at their data and at Westbury.”

In his confirmation of Wiltshire Council’s planned Levelling Up fund bids, cllr Clewer said if successful money would be earmarked for Melksham House transformation plans.

“We are doing preparation work with an intention to bid for an allocation of the Levelling Up, should it meet the criteria. If we do bid, it’s likely our plans and ambition for Melksham House will form part of that submission,” he said. “Any successful bid will need the support of both Wiltshire Council and local MPs. We are also considering making bids for funding for Salisbury and Trowbridge and if we do, we’ll speak to relevant stakeholders in due course.”

 

 

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