Marlborough, as an old and historic town on the route west from London to Bristol was one of the early centres embracing The Great West Way tourist initiative designed to bring this part of the country to the attention of tourists. A sort of ‘Route 66’ for the West Country.
In the days of King John (thousand years or so ago) and his son Henry III, the country’s parliament sat here, and even some of the ‘Statutes of Marlborough’ – the oldest (of four) statutes in existence which formed the basis of the laws applicable to this country – are still in place today. So Marlborough can boast history, and an important role in the creation of the governance of England.
But whether The Great West Way membership is good for Marlborough – or otherwise – is not the question here. Rather it is that on Monday, 7 November at the meeting of the Full Town Council Marlborough’s continued membership of (and hence participation in) The Great West Way is to be debated, but in secret, behind closed doors as members of the public (and press) are excluded from this part of the meeting (see below):
We would like to be able to report this. Not to say whether the Town’s continued participation is to the good or detriment of Marlborough – but at least to be able to bring the debate into the open so that the residents of the town can be made aware of the discussions regarding this initiative.
To quote one (unnamed) member of the Town Council: “What is the role of the Town Council?” Adding that the Council is (or should be) there to support the Town. The recent ‘Marlborough – what do you think?‘ survey, conducted as part of an initiative to help the future development of the Town, particularly the centre, is a good example of this – and it is being done in the open. This is the Council looking to take every opportunity to help the economy of Marlborough to the benefit of businesses and residents alike.
Any decision regarding membership of The Great West Way is part of this. On one hand – it costs (this is probably the reason behind the secrecy). And that cost is borne out of the precept, which is under real pressure at present given our current cost of living crisis. But the cost of membership of this initiative is a published figure, and is accessible via the minutes of the relevant Town Council Committee meetings (Finance & Policy Committee).
On the other hand, attracting tourism helps businesses, which in turn boosts the economy of the Town to the benefit of us all. Hence this piece is not about saying it’s either good or bad, GWW membership should be continued or should be dropped. Rather that if it is being debated then the Town should be able to at least hear what is being said, by whom, and why.
Maybe Councillors will decide to pull out of The Great West Way (would that mean that a bypass be built?), or maybe not. But we should all be able to hear both sides of the argument, as they are expressed, as this does come right back to the existential question (above) posed by the one senior Town Councillor – regarding what the Town Council is here for……