I am probably not the only one who has been somewhat bemused by recent interventions in both the local press and on social media, questioning whether Leighton Linslade Town Council gives local residents ‘value for money’.
It is not that there is anything wrong with asking the question, but the fact it was asked by two people with little or no connection to the town – one, a Councillor from Aspley Guise and the other, someone from Milton Keynes – makes one wonder what their motives are.
That said, it is a question I am more than happy to answer. We have a Town Council to be proud of, services that are the envy of every other town in Bedfordshire, and a community spirit that is second to none.
LLTC provides a wide range of services well beyond those traditionally associated with a town council. We maintain allotments across Leighton Buzzard and Linslade, provide 2 cemeteries and we have over 20 parks and open spaces to look after.
And these make a great starting point, as 4 of our local parks (plus Vandyke Road cemetery) have been given internationally recognised Green Flag awards. This is the most awards given to any Town Council in the whole of the UK.
Parsons Close recreation ground boasts a hugely popular splash park and playground, and an artificial beach. During the summer months the park is packed at weekends, attracting both local residents and visitors to the town.
On Summer Sunday afternoons the Town Council arranges a series of free concerts at the bandstand, cumulating in a final ‘Proms in the Park’. These concerts attract crowds of visitors, many of whom bring a picnic to make an afternoon out.
And over the coming months, LLTC is investing over £300K in upgrading the playpark to include some super new attractions, including many bits of equipment that can be enjoyed by children of all abilities and needs.
The High Street is at the heart of our town, and contrary to what the naysayers might have you believe, LLTC is committed to having a lively, busy, thriving High Street with the market at its centre.
Yes, the pedestrianisation of the High Street has not been universally welcomed, and that is why LLTC with CBC are consulting local residents on the future. And don’t believe social media when you are told it has been pre-determined by the Council – nothing has been agreed and in fact, there is no single point of view within either Councils as to the best way to proceed. We genuinely want the view of local residents to direct our decisions.
The market is not just a commercial venture. It is an attraction. Something that draws people into the town centre. It is not dying. It is thriving. And whilst there is a net cost to LLTC of just over £110K, all Councillors in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade are united in the view this is money well spent to keep a market in the centre of our community and is a way of supporting other town centre businesses.
LLTC arranges many events throughout the year: the Canal Festival, Christmas Weekend, the Big Lunch, the Mayor’s Christmas Concert, Living History weekends. All are hugely popular and draw in crowds from near and far. And they are all free!
We are proud of the services we provide to support local teenagers through TACTIC –mentoring and counselling, a drop in centre, and youth activities including a weekly youth club for children and young people with SEND. We employ a team of professional youth workers, and over the years many local children and young people have benefited from this service.
And we are also looking to extend the services we provide for older people – starting with an IT Helpdesk to provide support and advice to the over-55s on how to get online, stay connected and stay safe.
The Town Council operate a range of community buildings, including pavilions at Mentmore Park and Pages Park, and the fantastic Astral Park Sports and Community Centre. All of these are available to community groups, local businesses and residents for regular activities – parent and toddler groups, fitness groups, tea dances, meetings – one-off parties and just about everything else you can imagine!
And many of these groups are supported financially through the Council’s grant scheme.
LLTC runs Operation Dodford in partnership with Bedfordshire Police, to provide additional police patrols in the town, and to support local events. We also support local community safety initiatives such as Streetwatch, Homewatch and Pubwatch.
And supporting all of this work is our excellent team of dedicated staff, headed by the Town Clerk. We employ 40 staff, of which 22 are full time (June 2021). With a budget of over £2million, we are a small to medium sized business. To properly run the Council requires the right staff with the right experience and skills.
I am proud of the work done by the Town Council, and the services we offer. And our staff are worth every penny. They give 101% to our local community, and make Leighton Buzzard and Linslade a great place to live and work.
I can therefore only assume that those from outside our local community who seek to undermine and criticise are probably just a little bit envious of what our town has to offer.