DISMAY has greeted Malvern Hills District Council’s move to cut its contribution to the cost of maintaining Malvern’s historic gas lamps.

If approved, the £18,000 cut proposed in this year’s budget would take effect in 2011/12, leaving Malvern Wells and West Malvern parish councils and Malvern Town Council with the prospect of picking up the entire bill. They currently pay half.

Paul Tuthill, chairman of Malvern Town Council, said: “I’m shocked the district council no longer wants to support the cultural heritage of the district.

“I’d also say that the district shouldn’t be trying to reduce its own costs by shovelling them onto the parishes and towns.” Malcolm Victory, chairman of Malvern Wells Parish Council, said: “The parish doesn’t have the resources to pay the whole bill itself, so I don’t see how we can keep the lamps running.

“These lamps are a leading symbol of Malvern, and anything that affects them affects the public face of Malvern. What would happen to the lamps if they couldn’t be run any more? They’re listed so they can’t be taken down.”

But the district council’s overview and scrutiny committee said the council should reconsider.

Councillor Tom Wells, committee chairman, said: “This seems a cavalier decision by the council.

“We recommended that the council should go back and consult the parishes, and we hope the executive committee takes note of this.”

MHDC deputy leader Coun Ralph Madden said: “If this is approved by the council at the end of this month, we will be prepared to have discussions with the parishes about it. Cuts do have to be made, and this will involve some difficult decisions.”

The draft budget, which goes before the executive committee tomorrow, aims to make savings of £615,520 in 2010/11 and £1,017,665 in 2011/12.

There has been a U-turn over increasing the cost of residents’ two-hour parking permits by more than 200 per cent from £15 to £50 but other proposals include:

  • Increasing shared services with nearby councils to save £251,820 in 2010/11 and £333,965 the next year.
  • Cutting £8,000 from an over-60s swimming scheme.
  • Transferring St Wulstan’s nature reserve to the county council, saving £10,300.
  • A reduction of £7,100 in the council’s theatres grant.
  • A cut of £10,000 over two years by making its own View From The Hills magazine available in electronic form instead of paper.