Fareham’s tourist centre threatened by cut to budget

CHANGED PLANNED Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham town centre, where the town's tourist information centre is based
CHANGED PLANNED Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham town centre, where the town's tourist information centre is based

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THE future of Fareham’s tourist information centre could be under threat as a council is looking to slash its budget.

A new report by Fareham Borough Council says it is looking to reduce its funding for the TIC, which is based at Westbury Manor Museum in the town centre.

The papers suggest the council should make a 15 per cent cut next year to the £36,000 it paid in 2013 for staff, training and general operating costs.

But concerns have been raised by Tourism South East that if the centre’s budget is reduced any further, it would not be viable to keep it open.

As an alternative to the centre, the council is considering a page on the Visit South East England website, at a cost of £1,500 a year, which would attract an estimated 58,000 visits a month.

In 2012/13, the TIC received 18,736 visitors, down from 21,974 in 2011/12.

Cllr Connie Hockley, in charge of leisure matters for the council, said: ‘Many people go online these days to do the things that they would traditionally have gone into a shop for.

‘I obviously can’t pre-empt our decision, but when money is tight we have to make sure we provide the best value for money for our residents.’

Tourism has been identified by the council as a low priority for the borough as it looks to make cuts in a bid to balance its books.

The report due to go before the council’s ruling executive said: ‘The current arrangements can continue in the short term by making adjustments to the service.

‘However, the discussions with TSE have concluded that any further budget reduction could only be achieved by reducing opening hours and this would mean that it would be difficult to operate a viable service.’

Funding cuts last year by Hampshire County Council saw paid front-house staff at Manor Museum replaced with volunteers, but Visit England guidelines do not allow volunteers to work in TICs.

The matter will be discussed by a meeting on Monday.

Staff at the TIC said they were not allowed to speak to The News.