THE Wisbech public could be asked if they want the town council to acquire the lease on the Bramley Line.
The Resources Committee of the town council met on Monday night to discuss the controversial topic of the old railway line between March and Wisbech.
After a heated discussion, it was agreed the committee would recommend to full council that £20,000 be added to next year’s budget and the public be consulted through the Citizen to see if they want the money spent on the Bramley Line.
It was decided the best option is to increase the precept gradually if the line acquisition goes ahead, rather than get the £60,000 in one go when it may cost much less.
Full council will decide whether to go ahead with this recommendation for the new budget, which would see around £10 in total added onto the town council precept of an average Band D property in the town.
However, the recommendation was not unanimous, with former Mayor Nick Meekins voting against – calling the scheme a “potential white elephant” – and Samantha Hoy abstaining from the vote.
Mr Meekins believes the council already has its hands full with the acquisition of the Market Place from Fenland District Council. He is also concerned that getting the lease for the Bramley Line may be a costly and futile exercise.
He said: “I really can’t understand why we’re thinking of spending £60,000 on acquiring the lease. A rail link would be lovely but we need other stockholders on board. If we spend this money and the stockholders don’t come forward, it could be a potential white elephant.”
Miss Hoy wanted to see a referendum on the subject, to ask the people of Wisbech if they want to pay extra on their precept to acquire the lease, stating, “It’s not our money.”
However, town clerk Erbie Murat pointed out that a referendum is expensive, costing around £1.50 per elector. So the idea of consulting through the Citizen was put forward by Viv MacRae.
Mr Jonathan Farmer spoke in favour of the scheme and said they could always pull out if necessary. He also pointed out the council would not be responsible for running the railway if the Bramley Line is acquired.
It is proposed to add the extra £20,000 under the general umbrella of ‘acquisitions’, so it could potentially be used for other projects if the opportunity arises.
Alternatively, the money could be used to top up the council’s reserves, which have been depleted by unexpected costs from the acquisition of the Market Place.
The council has a 50 per cent shortfall in its reserves – around £50,000 – and has formulated a five-year plan to replace this money. A figure of £10,000 has been included in the budget already.