I FOLLOW the ongoing debate as to how Whitby is governed by SBC with great interest.
What really strikes me now is that the present structure and delivery of local government in this area is not working and in its present form not acceptable to the people of Whitby. The real question is how we engineer change – we are part of the borough and there will be no change to that format in the foreseeable future. I suspect most of us are unhappy with two central issues – the distribution of the borough cake and the apparent lack of fairness, and the delivery of services.
To my mind the first essential is to establish – to date this has proved illusive - the total revenue generated from Whitby and district and the actual spend in this area, with grant income separately identified, and perhaps taken over say, a five year period. The question of real or perceived unfairness will only be put to bed once we are given absolute clarity of information. This has certainly not been the case to date and in this we have a very proper complaint against our municipal fathers.
On the question of governance we must rise above the petty squabbles, vendettas and bad manners that dog the local scene – the recent letter from Colin Winspear well illustrates. We need some real leadership and at the moment unfortunately neither our own SBC councillors nor their WTC counterparts are providing it – this is not in any way a personal attack against individuals, some of whom I know and respect. There is currently a vacuum and the rising discontent, some of it I must say rather irrational, does not have a focal point thus leaving a very unsatisfactory situation. However, I do feel the new Whitby Harbour Board can be the first building block to better democracy for Whitby. Because of inherited maintenance problems the board has received very unfair recent criticism that probably boils down to no more than a clash of personalities and frayed tempers.
The voluntary sector has shown the way forward and provides us with a wide range of cultural, amenity and sporting organisations and facilities. Let us remember Whitby in Bloom did us proud this year in winning the national award in their category. We must also congratulate our business community for a wide, interesting and ever developing range of restaurants, cafes, café bars, pubs, shops and accommodation. Coupled with our beautiful and historic town, we have much to be proud of – undoubtedly the gem in the borough.
This brings me back to our dysfunctional municipal scene and the way forward. One thing is certain, change is needed and lateral thinking required. At the moment there is little opportunity for the two tiers of local government, the voluntary sector and our business community to meet in one forum. A tightly run forum, but not repetitious of what is done elsewhere, might be one way of taking Whitby forward and provide some much needed leadership and focus.
Barry Atkinson, Immediate Past Chairman. Whitby Civic Society by email