The long-running saga over the Blenheim Gardens Cafe goes on. This letter appears in this week's West Somerset Free Press. Have your say on the issue in the comments below, on our social media pages, or write in via [email protected]. See this weeks paper for an update on the story, plus more letters.
I was recently told about SWT Community Scrutiny committee. Its role is to provide local accountability and openness and reflect the needs and concerns of SWT residents. Sounded like the perfect fit to review people’s concerns over the selection of a custodian for the café in Blenheim Gardens in 2020.
I decided to give it a go and sent in a written request to the committee’s meeting on November 30. Members of the Friends of Blenheim Gardens also sent in a separate request.
The committee members who spoke were very sympathetic about the problems and worries of the people of Minehead and also the poor state of the café. Cllr Whitlor probably best expressed what everyone who looks at the café thinks, that the local council are the best people to operate it as they can pull the people together to get it going.
Chris Hall, the deputy chief executive responsible, was in attendance. Mr Hall said that the tenant selection was an open and transparent process but will not release any information under FOI. It cannot therefore, in my opinion, be open and transparent.
He did suggest we complain to the Local Authority Ombudsman, but the LAO has no jurisdiction to overturn bad decisions, they only look at process.
He also tried to blame Covid for the delays. The one industry that was not affected by Covid was the building industry. Solicitors also continued to operate so finalising legal documents shouldn’t have been a problem.
He continues to renegotiate with the proposed tenant and refuses to re-tender which in my opinion would normally be best practice in such circumstances. Why? If they had given the café to Minehead Town Council two years ago there would be no problems.
It’s time Andrew Pritchard, the chief executive officer, stepped in and sorted out this mess, and passed the café back to Minehead Town Council to run.
Steve Taylor, Minehead