'˜Wars of the Roses' battle looming over Midhurst flowers

A '˜Wars of the Roses' style battle is looming in Midhurst over the town's floral decorations

Wednesday, 13th December 2017, 4:09 pm

The new Town Team Community Interest Company (CIC), set up to promote the town, wants to take over the organisation of the floral collars which have been put up by the town council for more than a decade.

The traders group wants the town council to foot the bill but appears to have overlooked issues of maintenance, watering and public liability, according to town councillors.

It has drawn up a business case asking the town council for £5,000 to carry out the project

But at a meeting of the finance and policy committee members said they could not support it as business cases were supposed to be presented by town councillors not outside bodies.

They said they were unclear whether the group was asking for a grant or to take over total responsibility for the town’s flowers.

It will put further pressure on the relationship between town councillors and traders following disagreements over the joint organisation of the town council’s Christmas street party two weeks ago.

Steve Morley told fellow members of the finance committee: “It’s impossible for us to recommend this to full council. It is flawed because there is only one estimate for flowers here (council standing orders require three estimates to be obtained) and even this is not broken down enough to understand what the council is getting for their money.”

Chairman of the committee Carol Lintott said she had taken legal advice on the situation.

“We can either make a section 137 grant to the town team who can run the floral scheme. That means they would have to have their own public liability insurance and organise maintenance and watering. It would be a complete handover.”

But she said in the past the town council had worked with third parties such as MADhurst on the basis that they were town council initiatives run under the town council’s public liability but working closely with other parties for a ‘cohesive approach’.

She said there appeared to be ‘a little confusion over ownership’.

“We have been presented with a business case in a town council document requesting funds for a town council initiative which we have every intention of running in the coming financial year.

“I am very happy to make sure there is a cohesive theme and encourage traders to enhance their shops, but being a Midhurst town council project it has to have three quotes and consideration given to maintenance, watering and all these things. If we hand it over we don’t have to think about any of it. We need to be clear on that.”

Town councillors have earmarked £5,000 in their draft budget for floral decorations next summer.

They had already put a sum of £4,500 in their budget but on Monday (December 11) it was proposed to raise this by £500, the total which had been requested by the new Town Team Community Interest Company (CIC).

But town councillors did not support the ‘business case’ put forward by the CIC.

They said they wanted ‘serious clarification’ of the proposals from the traders.

Chairman of the committee Carol Lintott stressed: “If this is a business case it has to come from a town councillor – this looks very much like an application for a grant.”

Following complaints about the poor display of flowers this summer, councillors have agreed to accept a 60 per cent reduction in the cost offered by suppliers. They will now pay only £2,495 of the original £4,158.90 bill.

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