Fareham tourism centre will not close - but cash is cut

Westbury Manor Museum t in Fareham
Westbury Manor Museum t in Fareham
The countryside surrounding Harting Down in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

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A TOURIST information centre which was under threat of closure will now be able to stay open – but it will still see its budget cut by 15 per cent.

Fareham Borough Council, which funds the running of the tourism centre in Westbury Manor Museum, agreed to the reduction from £36,000 to £30,600, at the latest meeting of the ruling executive.

As previously reported, Tourism South East (TSE) had said that any further cuts to the budget would leave the centre unviable to run and it would have to be closed.

Visitor numbers to the TIC have declined in recent years.

However, during the meeting, cllr Connie Hockley, who is in charge of leisure matters, said: ‘Unfortunately in these straitened times we have to make some difficult decisions, and this has been one of them.

‘But I have heard from Tourism South East, and they have said they will continue to operate the service, even with the reduction in money.’

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

But local councillors said that residents use the TIC for its event booking and ticketing services.

Fareham East cllr Katrina Trott said: ‘It is a service I wish to see continued and it is a service in the town centre that is used primarily by local people.’

And her ward colleague, cllr Paul Whittle predicted a gloomy future for the TIC and the museum as he added: ‘I feel it could be the thin end of the wedge and the beginning of the end for Westbury Manor.

‘It is very well used and I would ask the executive to support the continuance of that as strongly as possible.’

Visit England guidelines also prevent volunteers from working in TICs – a move the Fareham councillors felt strongly about.

Council leader, cllr Sean Woodward added: ‘I think the problem is that TSE doesn’t allow volunteers, which seems crazy to me.

‘Even if they had one paid member of staff with volunteers, I’m sure that would be fine.’

And the council is also going to ask Hampshire County Council to consider opening the museum, which it is responsible for, on Mondays. It currently closes all its museums on Mondays.

Monday is Fareham’s market day and as a result it is the town’s busiest day.